Once you get to know Carlos Carrizosa, it’s easy to understand why he decided to apply to MiraCosta College’s new Social Work and Human Services program. The program that kicked off this fall is unique to the school—MiraCosta is the only community college in California that offers anything like it.
“I was excited to be accepted into the first class,” says Carrizosa, who is employed full-time at MiraCosta as a police officer. “I think education is important, even beyond getting your two-year or four-year college degree. It’s important to keep actively learning.”
Carrizosa’s parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico, and they worked hard to provide their family with a good life. “We didn’t have a lot of money but my parents made sure we never felt that way. As we got older, they didn’t push college. It was more like, you either have to get a job and start working, or you have to go to school. It was one or the other.”
Carrizosa did both. Following in the footsteps of his older brothers, he enrolled at Palomar, a community college in the area. “I didn’t have a plan. I was just taking the required courses,” he says. Then a job opened up on the Palomar police force and Carrizosa jumped at the opportunity.
“I was twenty years old, with a full-time job, full-time salary, and full benefits,” he says. “That was a big deal. I ended up finishing two associate’s degrees, and then, thanks to my wife’s encouragement, I finished my baccalaureate in sociology at Arizona State University.”
Now, as a police officer for MiraCosta, Carrizosa strives to create a sense of community and trust between the police department and the students. “Often, people associate the police with getting into trouble, but we’re here to serve the community and to help.” To shift negative perceptions, he started “Coffee with a Cop” as a way for police officers and students to connect in person. “They can get coffee and ask us questions. It’s a great way for us to get to know them, and for them to feel comfortable with us.”
Carrizosa makes it a point to walk the campus at least once a day, just “saying hello” to the students and faculty he runs into, to keep building that sense of community. “By being accessible, I have the chance to listen and help. Sometimes, students don’t know what resources we have available at MiraCosta. For instance, not every student knows we have a food pantry, if they need it. Sharing information like that can make a difference.”
Carrizosa is committed to the MiraCosta College Police Department and hopes to become a sergeant one day. “I love what I do and I basically plan to stay here until I’m forced to retire,” he says, with a good-natured laugh. “I’ll use what I learn from my social work and human services classes in my job, and it will help me be a better police officer and member of this community. I’ve already learned so much, and I’m not even halfway through the first semester. It’s a great program.”