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Jimmy Babajko has always wanted to serve his country. He found a way to do just that at Eastern Kentucky University.

The 2018 Outstanding Senior for the School of Safety, Security, and Emergency Management knew from a young age that he wanted to be a police officer, federal employee or military member. After he graduated high school in 2014, the comprehensive homeland security program at EKU piqued his interest so much that it drew him all the way from Wyckoff, New Jersey, to Richmond, Kentucky. Once he started the program, he decided he wanted to focus his career on the prevention of terrorist activities.

Babajko will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in homeland security, a minor in disaster management and certificates in intelligence studies and security management. “I felt the major, minor and certificates helped me learn critical skills that would make me stand out,” he said. Earlier this year, he was in the hiring process with the National Counter Terrorism Center, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security. He said that the credentials he earned at EKU helped him advance from one of 700 applicants to one of 170 to earn an interview.

Among those credentials Babajko counts valuable is hands-on experience. He was a member of Homeland Security and Assets Protection Leaders of Tomorrow (HALT) at EKU, a student organization that aims to provide members with involvement in social, civic and professional engagements in the field of homeland security. He has also helped develop an active shooter prevention plan for the Wyckoff YMCA, assisted with the development of an evacuation plan for Lexington-Fayette County and interned with the Kentucky State Police, Post 7 in Richmond, Kentucky.

Those experiences, Babajko said, would not have been possible without Dr. Bill Sullivan of the EKU Homeland Security program. Sullivan helped Babajko earn the state police internship and develop the active shooter plan. He is also grateful for the “tough love” he received from Dr. Mike Collier, also a Homeland Security Department faculty member, and HALT adviser. Collier, who has since retired, helped Babajko grow as a writer and as a student in the writing-intensive class he taught Babajko’s sophomore year. “He was very strict, but, if you needed his help, he would make time to help you out,” Babajko said of Collier.

Babajko admitted that he is not the same young man who stepped onto campus four years ago.

“I have become more responsible and disciplined since freshman year,” he said. “While I was able to have fun here at EKU, I have worked hard to enhance my knowledge and further my education.” He recommends that incoming students be social, get involved and make connections. As Babajko learned firsthand, “friends can be the greatest support systems when your parents are far away.”

— by Madison Harris, student writer, EKU Communications & Brand Management