The Power of Setting Goals

Christian holding degreeSeveral years ago, Middlesex criminal justice graduate Christian Vazquez heard a motivational speaker on television talk about how to be successful. “I can’t remember his name,” Christian said. “But I remember that he said if you want to accomplish goals, write them down and look at them every single day. So, that’s what I did.”

Christian, who at the time was 25 years old and working full-time as a CNC machinist, wrote down his four goals:

  • Go to a two-year college and earn a degree in business administration
  • Join the Army
  • Find job in law enforcement
  • Earn a bachelor’s degree

He hung the list on his bedroom wall, a daily reminder of what he wanted to do with his life. Seven years of very hard work and dedication later, he has (nearly) achieved all four goals.

The first goal he accomplished was earning a business administration degree from Middlesex Community College, which he completed in 2011 (while working full-time). Next, he joined the Army National Guard, becoming the first member of his family to ever serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. He completed boot camp at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri in May 2012 and went to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, that August to serve as a military police observer, controller, and trainer. As a private first class, Christian trained other guardsmen in transporting prisoners, interviewing inmates, and riot control (an assignment typically given to someone at the sergeant level or higher). He also served on a task force that trained and evaluated all MP companies preparing to be deployed to Cuba, Afghanistan, and other places. At the same time, he trained in military combat support to these companies.

Christian’s tour ended without being deployed, and he returned to Connecticut to complete his six-year commitment serving as a military police officer at the West Hartford Reserve Center. During this time, he re-enrolled at Middlesex to pursue his criminal justice degree—taking steps toward his goal of working permanently in law enforcement.

Christian said he felt very privileged to be taking classes from Middlesex’s exceptional and accomplished faculty—which included an FBI agent, a police chief, and a criminologist. These professors used their own personal experiences in law enforcement to give students the real-life view of what they were learning in the classroom. Christian thought this made classes extremely interesting. He said the criminal justice program overall provided a thorough look at the entire profession—the good, the bad, the risks (including risking your own life), and the rewards.

With each class, Christian became more convinced that he was on the right path. He talked to every professor as much as he could during and after class to see what else he could learn from them. The small class size and the encouraging learning environment helped Christian develop meaningful relationships with fellow students and faculty and succeed in his work. This was especially important when he faced conflicting deadlines with his many responsibilities. Although he worked during lunch breaks and well into the night to complete class assignments on time, sometimes he had to reach out for help.

“The only reason I was able to complete my degree on time was because my professors at Middlesex gave me their full support,” Christian said. “I got to know every professor, and they got to know me and my situation. When they knew I had weekend drills coming up, they gave me a little extra flexibility to complete my work. This made all the difference in the world.”

When it came time to apply for the Corrections Academy, Christian again turned to his professors for help preparing for the written exam and oral interview. After he was accepted, he now had a new workload to fit into his already packed schedule of full-time work, some remaining classes at Middlesex needed for graduation, National Guard duties, and, of course, his family.

“It was a tough time but by the grace of God I had the strength to get through it,” he said.

And he did get through it, graduating this past summer from the criminal justice program (earning his second degree from the college) and from the Corrections Academy. He immediately began a full-time job as a corrections officer working at Hartford Correctional Center, a level 4, high-security urban jail that primarily holds pre-trial offenders. He could now officially quit his machinist job and cross one more goal off his list.

Christian has one more item on his list which is still taped to his wall—earning a bachelor’s degree. He is tackling that goal at Waterbury’s Post University, where he was accepted into the business administration and management program.

Christian believes with hard work and motivation, anyone can set and meet their goals. “First, I think people need to search their souls to find out what they want do with their lives,” he said. “Then, they can make a plan—and a back-up plan—to achieve those dreams. The important thing is for people to put their time in to get what they want, and to never quit!”

It took a little while for Christian to understand this in his own life. But with an amazing amount of energy and hard work, he has turned his list of dreams into a list of actual accomplishments. He has built a better life for himself and for his family—with thanks, in great part, to the opportunities and people at Middlesex Community College.