Smokes family: Four siblings pursue criminal justice careers

While siblings Joseph, Kristin, Kimberly and Kayla Smokes have shared a lot over the years, they now share being a part of the class of 2012 and pursuing similar careers.
Joseph, who graduated May 12 from Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. with a criminal justice degree, plans to become a police officer with the Raleigh Police Department in August. Kristin and Kimberly graduated together with honors May 5 from USC Columbia with a B.A. in criminal justice and psychology, and minors in business and sociology, respectively. Their youngest sister Kayla-and the final child of James and Mildred Smokes to graduate from high school-plans to follow her siblings' pursuit of a criminal justice degree after graduating June 1 from Barnwell High School.
"They just wanted to follow me," joked Joseph, 22, of his sisters.
Joseph credits some family members in law enforcement, plus his passion for helping people-as displayed on church mission trips like one to South Africa a few years ago-as his reason for becoming a police officer. "There are a lot of dangerous things going on," said Joseph who travels on a mission trip to Haiti next month. "I want to help provide safety and service for the public."
While they don't want to be police officers, Kimberly, Kristin and Kayla share their brother's passion for helping others, which they hope to use in their future careers.
Kimberly, 25, and Kristin, 28, who pursued their criminal justice degrees a few years after graduating from BHS, said their children were their "inspiration" for going back to school. Kimberly is the mother of Aryana, 7, while Kristin is the mother of Yazmin, 4.
Kristin had a good job at JPMorgan Chase, but knew she needed a degree so she and her daughter could have a good life. "It's never too late," said Kristin who graduated 10 years after graduating from BHS. Her goal is to work with the federal government in Washington, D.C. in IT security after joining the military later this year and earning her Masters in business administration.
Kimberly said there are so many "delinquent juveniles" who are turning to crime and are in need of "direction." That's why she wants to work with juveniles in a probation and parole office to show them "they can still excel in life. We have to get our children on the right track." She started a job at the child development and special needs disability board in Aiken, but plans to pursue her Masters in public administration online at Capella University in July.
Kristin and Kimberly both encourage single mothers to go to school because they are living proof that it is possible to earn a degree while raising children. "It's possible to get out there and succeed," said Kimberly.
Kayla, who plans to attend USC Salkehatchie in the fall to major in criminal justice and psychology with a minor in business, also wants to work with juveniles as a counselor. While she earned her cosmetology license from the Barnwell County Career Center, Kayla, 17, said she's always known working with children and youth is her calling. "It brightens my day."
While volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club in high school, Kayla saw a need of youth needing someone to talk. "I want to be that person," Kayla said. "They need guidance, patience and love (and then) they'll show you respect."
The siblings' parents are very proud of their children for staying in school and pursuing their passions, and consider it an "honor" for them to graduate the same year. "I'm relieved, proud and blessed," said Mildred, who is a teacher. "I hope they go on and get their careers going."
While it was the dream of Joseph, Kimberly, Kristin and Kayla's late grandfather, Wilbur Smokes Sr., to see his grandchildren graduate, his widow Avis Smokes, came from Florida to see everyone graduate. "I'm so proud of the kids (because) it truly shows what love and unity can do," said Avis. "A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins."
James and Mildred also have three other children-Jamie, 34, a chef and construction worker in Columbia; Justin, 30, who is pursuing his criminal justice degree online; and Jeremy, 24, who is a mechanic at B&B Ford.