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Jennifer Kermeen came to Eastern Kentucky University in 2012 with her sights set on an agriculture degree in hopes of continuing her studies in veterinary medicine. It was a day at work two years later, however, that changed the course of Kermeen’s professional life. 

During a typical workday, Kermeen confronted a petty thief attempting to steal air freshener. A member of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office happened upon the situation, taking note of her composure. The officer talked with Kermeen about a potential career in law enforcement, encouraging her to apply. Six months later, she was hired by the MCSO. She’s been in law enforcement ever since.

Kermeen shared her inspirational story with fellow graduates during the 2021 Fall Commencement Ceremonies for the colleges of Business and Justice, Safety, & Military Science on December 3. Kermeen earned her master’s degree in justice policy and leadership. 

“I am standing before you today on this current journey, due largely in part to one man’s negative choice that, unbeknownst to him, impacted my life in a positive manner,” Kermeen said. 

What could have been a situation filled with anger or fear became a life-changing one. 

“I’ve never been mad at the man who chose to steal,” she said. “I’m grateful to him because he changed my life. The good and the bad have the potential to impact us. We must be willing to let the process happen and be open to it.” 

Fast forward seven years from that wild day at work. Kermeen is the only woman who is a K-9 handler for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, a position she’s held for nearly three years. She hopes to eventually earn her Master K-9 Handler certification. 

“I absolutely want to be a role model for other women, and young girls, who wish to pursue law enforcement,” she said. “It is something that I take very seriously.” 

Kermeen shared six lessons with the commencement audience: 

  1. Be transformed. Make a conscious and deliberate effort to step outside your comfort zone. 

  2. There is purpose in pain. “It is in our darkest moments when the lesson will come to light. That moment is when greatness is achieved.”

  3. Service to others. “We are greater when we look beyond ourselves and when we do for others.” 

  4. Define your dirt. Everyone has experienced personal and professional setbacks. “As a former agriculture student, I can confidently tell you that dirt is required for growth.” 

  5. Lead without status. “Leadership is not about being in charge but rather, taking care of those in your charge.” 

  6. Knowledge and wisdom. “The education we have received here at Eastern Kentucky University has provided us with a foundation and tools to further expand our knowledge and wisdom with the world. The proper application of education, knowledge and wisdom combined is what is required of all of us to make an enduring impact on the world around us.” 

EKU recognized 1,341 degree candidates from its six colleges during its fall commencement ceremonies held December 3-4.