For the fourth year, the legacy of a fallen Twinsburg and Tallmadge hero will help shape the futures of two local high school graduates entering a career in the justice system.
The Joshua Miktarian Memorial Scholarship Committee recently announced that Eric Bennett, who graduated May 28 from Twinsburg High School, and Jovana Ilic, who graduated May 23 from Tallmadge High School, are the recipients of the $2,500 scholarships begun in 2010 in memory of the Twinsburg officer and Tallmadge resident killed in 2008 the line of duty.
"I'm really kind of awestruck, humbled really, that people are still willing to get into this line of work," said Chuck Clapper, a member of the scholarship committee and a former Twinsburg officer who worked with Miktarian. "You see people running away from something ... then you see the people in blue running toward the blast.
"It's just nice to know there are kids growing up who are humble, who put the needs of others before the needs of themselves."
Bennett, 18, will head to Edinboro University, near Erie, Pa., in the fall to major in criminal justice and minor in psychology.
He said the tragic events surrounding Miktarian's July 13, 2008, murder and the following funeral procession had a profound effect on his early decision to pursue a career as a juvenile corrections officer.
"I never met Officer Miktarian," Bennett said. "But when I heard about his death it hurt me a lot ... I've always had respect for law enforcement officers.
"I attended the procession with my Boy Scout troop, and we all saluted the casket when it passed. Right then I knew I wanted to do something in law enforcement."
The slain officer's widow, Holly Miktarian, who still resides in Tallmadge, said she also remembered the salute as she was being driven up Route 91.
"I do remember seeing the Scouts saluting," she said May 29. "I can remember that well."
Bennett added that his volunteer work in the Twinsburg community -- through a Boy Scout day camp as well as two years of volunteer work at Camp Fitch with Dodge Intermediate School's sixth-graders -- has also helped prepare him for his career choice.
"I've always liked working with youth ... I think [being a juvenile corrections officer] would be good for me," Bennett said.
"I'm greatly honored to receive this scholarship," Bennett added. "Above all others, this is big for a Twinsburg student to receive."
Ilic, 17, of Tallmadge, will have a shorter commute than Bennett as she begins her studies in sociology at the University of Akron in the fall. Ilic said she hopes to end up in the court room, with plans to pursue a law degree following her undergraduate work.
"This is just amazing," Ilic said May 29. "I never expected I'd get this scholarship ... it is such an honor. I hope I do everything I said I would do and I can fulfill everything."
Her attorney aspirations began at a young age, Ilic added.
"While everyone was watching something else, I was watching 'The People's Court,'" she said.
"I told Jovana to make sure to fight for the good side," Holly said.
Holly presented the scholarships, based on an essay, a minimum 2.5 GPA, letter of recommendation and the expectation of a career in law enforcement, to Bennett and Ilic at separate ceremonies over the last several weeks.
"It is so very important for me to be involved in this, and I am so proud to be personally handing these scholarships to these individuals," she said. "I always tell them to keep us updated as to what they're doing ... to just go after it. Your career is right in front of you."
For Holly, the scholarships -- and her husband's legacy -- will soon extend to students too young to have stood along the parade route saluting the officer's casket. But the scholarships will always be rooted close to home as her daughter grows up.
"It's personally important for me," Holly said, "as I hope Thea can take this over one day."