Candace Smallwood is the first in her family to attend college. Her mother is a preschool teacher—her father, an aviation mechanic.
“Even though they hadn’t attended college, my parents were incredibly encouraging and gave me the critical emotional support I needed to know that I belonged here,” she says. “IUPUI and O’Neill picked up the baton from them providing guidance about what college would be like and helping me navigate campus life and my major.”
This first-generation student can boast another family first, as well. She’s the first to pursue a career in law enforcement.
“My whole life has centered around public service,” she says. “I’ve always been drawn to helping people. When I was evaluating careers, I thought law enforcement could be a great way to live out my life in service.”
Smallwood is in her second year with O’Neill as a Public Safety Management major. She also is working in the O’Neill office as a Student Success Assistant. For her, it’s another opportunity to serve others.
“I love O’Neill and have had such a great experience here so far, I want to help other students get the same experience,” she says, smiling.
Soon, she’ll turn her attention toward another on-campus position as a hopeful cadet with the IU Police Department before heading to the IUPD Police Academy next year.
While many students have aspirations of heading into state or federal law enforcement, Smallwood says her heart and mission belong in her hometown of Fishers, Indiana.
“Every community needs someone to look out for them,” she says. “I want to use the lessons and experiences I learn here at O’Neill to go back and help make our local police force even better.”
She’s watched the community change and become more diverse over time. Her O’Neill degree will prepare her to be a better public servant to the entire community, regardless of where she finds her first assignment. The diverse perspectives included in her courses—coupled with the school’s curriculum focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion—will provide the perspective she needs to build relationships with a variety of people.
“Have a better understanding of different people’s experiences is important when you’re handling different situations and trying to connect with people,” she explains. “If you think every community is the same, it’s going to be hard to truly help people in the ways that are best for them.”
Her commitment to serving the community through public safety earned her a scholarship that will allow her to follow in the footsteps of an Indianapolis police officer who died in the line of duty 20 years ago.
“Receiving this scholarship was such a blessing,” she says. “I feel so honored that I was selected to carry Jason Baker’s legacy forward by dedicating my life and career to service just as he did.”
Jason Baker was killed in 2001 while on duty as a Marion County Sheriff’s deputy. After his death, his parents, Jerry and Sharon Baker, wanted to create a way to both honor their son and support students working toward a career in public safety. They created the annual Beyond the Badge 5K Run/Walk to bring members of law enforcement and the community together while raising funds for student scholarships, specifically the Jason Baker Legacy Scholarship that helps support O’Neill students.
The deadline to apply for the scholarship is March 1. To apply, students must be entering their sophomore year and pursuing a degree in public safety.
The scholarship also is renewable beyond its initial award. While this is Smallwood’s first year as a recipient, she is one of five O’Neill students to benefit from the scholarship the Jason Baker Legacy Scholarship for the 2021–22 academic year. The other four students have had their scholarships renewed during their time at O’Neill:
Alexander Clausius is a full-time officer with the Indiana University Police Department at IUPUI and a second-year graduate student pursuing his MPA in Public Administration at the O’Neill School. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Public Safety Management from O’Neill in 2020 and went on to graduate from the Indiana University Police Academy as part of the 47th class in summer 2021. His long-term career goal is to become an FBI special agent.
Olivia Hale is currently a cadet in the Indiana University Police Department Program. She will earn her degree in Public Safety Management in December, but her education won’t stop there. She is in O’Neill’s Accelerated Master’s Program and will continue on to earn her Master of Criminal Justice and Public Safety Management degree with a minor in Religious Studies. After completing her master’s degree, she plans to pursue a career in federal law enforcement, specifically in counterterrorism or a special investigations unit.
Ingrid Ortega earned her Public Safety Management degree from O’Neill in May 2021 and is pursuing an O’Neill graduate certificate in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. She attended and graduated from the IU Police Academy this summer. Ortega initially wanted to serve at the federal level, but her interests have shifted to working in her local community to build positive relationships.
Reece Thompson is a senior at O’Neill, finishing his degree in Public Safety Management with a minor in Civic Leadership. He graduated from the IU Police Academy this past summer and hopes to move into a full-time job as a police officer on the local level before eventually moving into federal law enforcement. After his career, Thompson wants to come back to Indiana and share his career experience with future law enforcement officers.