If being part of a police force means being calm in the face of chaos then Kara Solecki has selected the right program.
Currently enrolled in the Police Studies Extension Certificate at MRU Continuing Education, Kara and her family were forced to show grace under fire when they were among the 88,000 residents evacuated from Fort McMurray this summer.
“I was at work,” Solecki remembers, “and reports started coming in that specific neighbourhoods had mandatory evacuation orders, and pictures started surfacing of the fire in full tilt in town.” That was the time that her ‘serve and protect’ instincts kicked in. “It wasn’t so much shock at that point as it was fear; worry about all of my friends and family, and then a sort of surreal calm; it was time to plan what the next step was.”
That next step was gathering with her family (mother, father, two sisters, aunt and uncle) and leaving their home in the Timberlea neighbourhood at the mercy of the spreading wildfire.
“We didn’t know where we’d end up so I was planning for the worst and getting any supplies that may be necessary.” She says. Among the short list of items she was able to grab were her textbooks. She recalls, “For whatever reason, at the time I didn’t think I could part with them… It was exam time!”
Despite a nail-biting drive out of town on a quarter tank of gas, an evacuation plane ride into Edmonton by Westjet and the community of Rocky Mountain House rallying to support her family as they stayed temporarily with friends, Kara kept up with her studies. “I got through that month away through the help and support from my professor Doug King and keeping busy. There was so much emotional turmoil at that time, but staying busy with school work was just so normal, and it felt like it grounded me.” In hindsight, she reflects that, “I needed this sense of normal so desperately, when everything else was anything but normal.”
She remains appreciative that Doug King and other staff at MRU suggested and supported any extensions she might need, and let her know that told her to focus on her safety and well being. That support, Kara admits, “allowed me to put my worry elsewhere.”
“The flexibility of MRU’s online Police Studies Extension Certificate has always been important to me, as when I signed up, I decided to continue working full time as well as pursue other studies.” Now back with family and friends in her hometown she’s grateful to be immersed in her studies while dealing with her new normal, “During the time I was evacuated, this flexibility obviously showed it’s benefits once again.”
As for what’s next, she realizes that the unexpected happens, but it’s a good idea to have a plan. “It is my hope to attend MRU‘s Bachelor of Arts – criminal justice degree program in the fall of 2017, then I plan to pursue a career in probation or parole; hoping to be one of the first people of contact in the road to rehabilitation for criminal offenders.”
Kara concludes, “Taking this course helped clarify what a huge portion of my future will look like and made me realize that I never want to stop learning.”