Photo: TCL President Richard Gough presents the 2014 Trooper Smalls Award to criminal justice graduate Chelsie (Looker) Heathcoat.
Technical College of the Lowcountry graduate Chelsie (Looker) Heathcoat was recently recognized for her excellence in putting her passion for justice to work in her studies in the criminal justice program.
Recently, Heathcoat was honored as TCL’s recipient of the 2014 Trooper Smalls Award, which recognizes an outstanding criminal justice student. The award is named for TCL graduate and South Carolina State Trooper Bruce Smalls who made the ultimate sacrificewhile on the job.
Heathcoat says it was her mother’s stories of childhood abuse that led her to the criminal justice field.
“My mom was sexually abused when she was younger, and ever since I’ve heard those stories I’ve had a passion for criminal justice. I want to prevent abuse and help those who have been abused,” Heathcoat said.
In 2012, Heathcoat moved nearly 2600 miles from Lemoore, Calif., when her then husband received military orders to Beaufort. Heathcoat then began exploring college options in the Lowcountry, which led her to TCL where she enrolled and excelled in the associate degree program.
Heathcoat was the perfect candidate for the Trooper Smalls award because of her leadership, dedication and volunteer work during her time at TCL, according to Criminal Justice Instructor Mike Ricks.
“Chelsie’s strong work ethic was evident with class assignments, team dynamics, and practical applications. She was dedicated to whichever team she was assigned to and worked hard to ensure her team was at the top of the class,” Ricks said.
While maintaining a nearly 3.8 GPA, Heathcoat also dedicated time to helping recruit and mentor military dependents within the criminal justice program.
The 21-year-old received an Associate Degree of Applied Science in Criminal Justice in May while also enrolled at The Citadel. Looker plans to continue her education at The Citadel to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice.
Criminal justice professor at The Citadel, Marcus Cox, envisions a successful and bright future for Heathcoat.
“I have found Chelsie to be remarkably smart, imaginative, and a careful young scholar— she is as impressive as the very best cadets and students I have worked with,” Cox said.
Heathcoat is quick to point out that her success was not without obstacles. “My biggest struggle while I attended school was having my family nearly 3000 miles away and my husband at the time being deployed for over 9 months. It was a new place for me and I didn’t know anyone,” Heathcoat said.
Heathcoat found companionship within her program of study.
“Chelsie quickly developed many friends within the criminal justice program and spent time socializing with her classmates on and off campus.” Ricks stated. “She is admired by many of her classmates.”
Cherelle Poole, a classmate and close friend, describes how Heathcoat was always happy to lend a helping hand with classwork.
“Chelsie would often come over to my house and offer her help with my statistics work,” Poole said. “She was always more than happy to offer her guidance and even stay until midnight to help me study for an exam.”
After Heathcoat earns her Bachelor’s Degree from The Citadel, she plans to pursue a career with the FBI or another similar agency.
“I would not be surprised to see Chelsie working for a state or federal law enforcement agency and/or pursuing an advanced degree in criminal justice down the road,” Cox said.
Award winner, college scholar, team leader and criminal justice graduate – Chelsie Heathcoat’s enthusiasm for the criminal justice field is sure to soon serve more than her classmates.