VCU senior guard Zakia Williams (second from left) at the graduation and awards ceremony for Henrico County's Basic Student Jailor Program earlier this month.

VCU senior guard Zakia Williams (second from left) at the graduation and awards ceremony for Henrico County’s Basic Student Jailor Program earlier this month.

RICHMOND, Va. – Bill Cosby once wrote a book called “Congratulations! Now what?”, which doled out postgraduate wisdom, laced with the comedian’s trademark humor, to college graduates. It’s said that there’s a little bit of truth in every joke, and Cosby’s cheeky title is a good example. Graduation can be an exciting time, but many students aren’t prepared to navigate life after the diploma.

But Zakia Williams doesn’t plan on being another rudderless graduate. She’s already planning ahead. This summer, the VCU senior guard took an important step towards a smooth “real world” transition. A Criminal Justice major, Williams was recently deputized through a joint program between VCU and the Henrico County Sheriff’s Department called the “Basic Jailor Student Academy”.

The nine-week program trained and certified VCU Criminal Justice upperclassmen in a number of areas, including firearms, mental health, defensive tactics and CPR. In its third year, the program was developed by Henrico Sheriff and VCU graduate Michael Wade in 2010 as a way to reduce overtime costs and prepare Criminal Justice majors for their careers. Students who complete the program are certified and eligible for part-time employment in the county’s corrections system.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for me because ultimately that’s what I want to do. I want to work in corrections,” said Williams, a native of Columbus, Ga.

There was plenty of upside in the program, but there was also a catch.

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