Lehigh Acres Family Studies/Shares Together In Criminal Justice Program

When Francis Cassatt-Culver decided to return to college in 1996 and enrolled at International College, she never expected the result to become a family affair.

Cassatt-Culver completed her bachelor’s degree in management in 1998 and is now working toward a master’s degree in criminal justice at International College. Also enrolled within the criminal justice program are her daughter, Samantha Culver, 19, her husband, Brian Cassatt, 44, and Samantha’s fiancée, Brett Youd, 27. All are residents of Lehigh Acres.

“It makes for lively discussion around the dinner table,” admits Cassatt-Culver, 41.

Cassatt-Culver had attended college after high school, but quit shortly after getting married and having her daughter. Eventually, Cassatt-Culver got a job with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in 1989, starting out as a corrections officer and then moving up to sergeant.

“It wasn’t until I entered the field of corrections that I thought about going back to school,” Cassatt-Culver said. “I kept thinking that with an education and promotions, I could start affecting change.”

But the thought of going to a traditional college with younger students didn’t appeal to Cassatt-Culver.

“Sitting in a class with a bunch of 19 year olds and going through a class with traditional lectures would have discouraged me from getting a degree,” she said. “I wanted more of a professional educational environment and International College is geared toward adults and professionals.”

Culver was only a sophomore in high school when her mother received her first degree.

“She never let me know how much homework she had or how hard it was,” Culver said. “I was proud of her for being so old and going back to school.”

Cassatt-Culver’s experience and success at International College persuaded Culver, Cassatt and Youd to enroll in Fall 2001. Cassatt and Youd both work for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office as corrections officers.

“It’s getting to the point where to get the better job in law enforcement, you have to have at least a two-year degree,” Youd said. “I just want the knowledge to support me in whatever I do in my career.”

Cassatt admits that studying in the same field has sparked some competition. Cassatt, Samantha and Youd have had at least one class together.

“Yes, it’s competitive, but it sparks that drive in us to do our best,” Cassatt said. “We also encourage each other and help each other out.”

The group hopes to graduate together in a couple of years.

As the family looks to the future, they all plan on pursuing more challenging roles in law enforcement. Cassatt and Youd hope for careers in computer forensics. Samantha Culver is considering crime scene investigations, forensics or criminal profiling. Cassatt-Culver, who currently works as a training supervisor for a private prison system, aspires to be a warden within the private system.

“I feel there is still a lot of change that needs to occur within the corrections system and how it’s viewed by the average citizen,” she said.

When International College Criminal Justice Program Chair Joseph Kibitlewski learned an entire family was enrolled in his program, he was impressed.

“This family epitomizes the adage of ‘the family that shares together stays together.’ They have the common goal of getting educated and helping one another. There might be a little competition to make sure no one falls below the mark the family has set for itself,” he said. “They are a pleasure – the types of students a professor craves.”
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