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Twinsburg -- Young adults driven to serve and protect received some motivation through the Officer Joshua T. Miktarian Memorial Scholarship, building on the fallen officer's legacy of inspiring a next generation of law enforcement.
Two graduating seniors, Braden Susnik from Twinsburg High School and Jennifer Deaton from Tallmadge High School, were selected to receive $2,500 each from the scholarship fund at separate ceremonies earlier this month.
Applicants of the scholarship are traditionally graduating seniors with an interest in a law enforcement career and a history of community involvement.
With ambitions to become a U.S. federal marshal, Susnik plans to attend Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Ind. As a four-year varsity letterman on Twinsburg High School's hockey team and a member of the Ohio High School all-star hockey team, he also plans to play hockey for Indiana Tech. Susnik will major in criminal justice and crime analysis.
"I've wanted to [study criminal justice] for a while," Susnik said May 22. "My dad and brother both served in the U.S. Marine Corps and I wanted to go and do my part. I wanted to go and protect people and take care of all the crime at home before going overseas."
Susnik said his accomplishments on the ice as a varsity goalie and his community service efforts through his Eagle Scout project, completed in June 2013, helped him stand out from other applicants.
"I was refurbishing the Safety Town in Twinsburg that hadn't been touched up since it was built," Susnik said. "I was only about halfway done and I was leaving for the day and I saw there were little kids ... it wasn't even finished yet and they were enjoying it. They didn't even know I had done it but just the enjoyment I got from seeing them playing on that and being able to help people feels really good to me."
A high-school criminal justice class and an experience with an Akron police dog sparked a determination in Deaton to become a police K-9 officer. Deaton, of Tallmadge, plans to attend the University of Akron in the fall with a major in political science. She shadowed members of the Brimfield Police Department earlier in the school year and is currently mentoring with Tallmadge Police Department.
"I did a criminal justice class in my junior year at Tallmadge [High School] and they brought in an Akron K-9 and I absolutely loved how the dogs were with the police at all times," Deaton said. "My senior year ... I started shadowing Brimfield Police and I got to shadow their K-9 units. After the first 20 minutes, I thought 'yeah, this is it.'"
Deaton claims a close connection to Officer Miktarian's story and said she was thrilled when Miktarian's widow, Holly, announced her as the winner. She even received a pin with Miktarian's badge No. 45 on it.
"When she announced my name, I was really happy," Deaton said. "It was a great honor to get it. They give a little pin out that says '45.' I got permission to wear that pin on my graduation gown. I'm also part of the Cuyahoga Falls Police Explorers, and I get a uniform there so that [pin] is now on my uniform. I just really want to thank [Holly] again for choosing me."
"I was very ecstatic when I was called up there," added Susnik, who was awarded his scholarship May 1. "I was so happy I couldn't even say anything. I can't even describe the feeling, it was probably the best feeling of my life. Hopefully, I can pay it back to the city with my work someday."
Holly said this year's applicants displayed ambition and knowledge of her late husband's tragic murder in the line of duty July 13, 2008.
"We really look for somebody with a passion and a drive," Holly said. "It doesn't hurt when they've done their homework and actually looked up the story about Josh and they talk about that too."
Looking ahead to next year, scholarship fund Trustee and retired Twinsburg Police Officer Chuck Clapper said the scholarship amount will increase in 2015 from $2,500 to $3,000, thanks to successful fund raising efforts in recent years.
A 1993 graduate of Tallmadge High School who lived in Tallmadge, Officer Joshua Miktarian was an officer with Twinsburg for 11 years.
The scholarships, which began in the years after the officer's death, will be forwarded directly to the institutions the winners will attend starting this fall, with half of the amount given after the student's first year of higher education and the second awarded after the student's sophomore year.
Funds are raised for the scholarship through charity events, including the annual Joshua T. Miktarian Poker Run (coming up this year on Aug. 30) and other fundraisers.
Facebook: Conner Howard, Record Publishing Reporter