The journey to a college degree

WILMINGTON — Jason Bishop’s path to a college degree has indeed been a journey. He began the trek in 1992 at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) after just completing his duty with the U.S. Coast Guard and settling back into civilian life.

“To be honest, I really did not want to go to college, but I realized that this was something I had to do,” Bishop admitted.

While in the Coast Guard, part of Bishop’s job was law enforcement. So, it was a logical move to pursue a career in the field. With this thought in mind Bishop withdrew from UNCW and enrolled in the Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) program at Cape Fear Community College (CFCC). After BLET, he continued to take classes at CFCC while putting in applications with local police departments. In March of 1998, Bishop accepted a job as a patrol officer with the Wrightsville Beach Police Department (WBPD).

“Returning to complete college was always in the back of my mind,” Bishop said. “However, when I started work, a college degree wasn’t a requirement for advancement in my career.”

Bishop’s role with the WBPD continued to expand. In 2006 he was promoted to sergeant, in 2015 he accepted the role of captain, and he is currently Patrol Division Commander. With these roles he has continued to seek continuing education earning the Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate, the Tactical Officers Training Certificate, and completing the NCSU Administrative Officers Management Program. He has also been recognized for his hard work ethic and his efficiency. In 2007 he was named Officer of the Year; in 2015 he earned the Service Above Self award and the Medal of Valor.

The one thing missing on Bishop’s impressive resume was a college degree. So, in 2014 he set out on a journey to earn his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and criminology from the University of Mount Olive (UMO) in Wilmington.

“I have 20 years on the job,” Bishop said. “Having my degree puts me in a better position for further advancement. Continuing my education has also given me opportunities I may not have had otherwise.”

Bishop credits his family for being supportive and encouraging him every step of the way.

“My wife has pushed me when I wanted to just give up,” he said. “I’m not going to sugar-coat it. It’s tough. But if you really think about it, there is enough time in the day to get it all in. Even if it’s dedicating an hour before you go to bed to working on homework. Some weeks are tougher than others and I’ve spent a lot of weekends locked in a room trying to get school work done.”

Setting an example for his kids has been the biggest motivator.

“My son ended up graduating from college before I did, and my daughter has just started her college career,” Bishop shared. “When my daughter feels overwhelmed I can give her some guidance because I have experienced the same pressure.

When Bishop, 47, walks across the stage in December to accept his degree, he will do so with a sense of price and accomplishment.

“That’s one thing people can say about me,” he said. “I never give up.”