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Sheriff's scholarship advances women's education in law enforcement

Nellie Torgerson and Alida Hogan received a scholarship from the Minnesota Sheriff's Association. (David Ballard Photography)

The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office announced in November that two local women, both nontraditional students, were among 20 recipients of a scholarship that helps people pursue careers in law enforcement.

Alida Hogan of Duluth and Nellie Torgerson of Alborn each received $600 to assist with their education costs. Both women are in their 30s, and both are moms.

These women have worked incredibly hard to pursue a higher education, juggling responsibilities unknown to many of their younger classmates. As such, both women deeply value the recognition and honor the Minnesota Sheriff's Association scholarship bestows.

Alida Hogan

Alida Hogan (David Ballard Photography)Hogan is 34, and a graduate of Northwestern High School. She and her four children currently reside in Duluth.

Before making the decision to pursue a career in law enforcement, Hogan worked as a supervisor at a group home. It was a random exchange with a local police officer that changed the trajectory of her career.

"Recently, I had a great interaction with a police officer in downtown Duluth," Hogan said. "She made me feel very valued, and this exchange made me re-evaluate my entire future."

Shortly thereafter, Hogan signed up for the Duluth Citizen Police Academy, a 12-week course, and later began volunteering for the Superior and Duluth Police Departments. "My heart completely changed," Hogan said. "I knew I wanted to go into law enforcement. I have experience in the mental health field, and knew I could make a difference."

After making her decision, Hogan changed career fields. She now works in the personal security field at Private Protective Services of Duluth while she completes her education. She will graduate from the Law Enforcement Program at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College this spring.

Nellie Torgerson

Nellie Torgerson (David Ballard Photography)Torgerson, 31, lives in Alborn with her husband and two young children. She also is a student in the Law Enforcement Program at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. Torgerson already has a bachelor's degree in criminology from the University of Minnesota Duluth and works as a Senior Court Clerk for the Sixth Judicial District.

Torgerson joined the Army National Guard at age 17. She served for six years, including a 2007 deployment to Iraq. Serving others is a high priority for Torgerson; she has also been a member of the Alborn Volunteer Fire Department for the past two years.

Her current job as a senior court clerk requires her to attend court cases and take notes. While satisfying, she knew she wanted more.

"I decided I wanted to work in a different area of the criminal system," Torgerson said. "I really like my job, but I want to make a difference." When it comes to her future career, Torgerson is most excited about helping others and saving lives.

Nontraditional students

As women in their 30s with families of their own and plenty of job history, both Torgerson and Hogan bring a lot to the table. In a field where many of their classmates are as young as 17 or 18, "There's something to be said for having all of this life experience," Hogan said.

Torgerson agreed. "I relate to the teachers more than the other students, in terms of our stage of life," she said. "But it's also good that we have so many young, ambitious people in class."

Both women are grateful and humbled to have earned these scholarships. "This award helps me afford what I need for school including a uniform, books and tuition. It makes a huge difference, and I am very grateful," Hogan said.

"It's hard to comprehend the concerning amount of debt needed to go into a law enforcement career," Torgerson added. "As such, I feel very blessed and grateful for this scholarship."

An honor for women

Hogan and Torgerson said the ratio of students currently enrolled in the Law Enforcement Program at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College is split roughly 50-50, male to female. Both women are pleased to represent their future career field's strong female demographic. And, those at the top of the law enforcement leadership hierarchy agree.

St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman reflected on the privilege of awarding the two scholarships to two deserving women. "As much as I enjoy presenting these scholarships to local students," he said, "It's particularly pleasing this year to see two female students chosen as winners. Recruiting more female applicants is both a goal and a challenge for many law enforcement agencies, including our own, so it's good to see quality prospects pursuing this profession."

For more information

Additional information about the scholarships and the Minnesota Sheriff's Association can be found online at www.mnsheriffs.org.

Andrea Busche is a Duluth freelance writer. This story originally appeared in The Woman Today magazine.

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