Golden LEAF Scholar Alumni Spotlight: Taylor Lugo

Golden LEAF Scholar Alumni Spotlight: Taylor Lugo

April 11, 2024

By Kaitlyn Kornegay, Golden LEAF External Affairs Intern

Golden LEAF Scholarship alumna Taylor Lugo grew up in Washington County, between Plymouth and Roper. Lugo still resides in Roper, where she volunteers as a firefighter when she has free time from her job as a probation officer. Attending the University of Mount Olive through a majority of online courses, Lugo received bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice and Criminology, as well as a masters in Criminal Justice, specializing in Forensic Psychology.

“The Golden LEAF Scholarship was a big reason why I was able to attend college,” said Lugo. “I was the first person out of my family to go to college, so I was really appreciative of that scholarship because otherwise, coming from a small community, I wouldn’t have been able to go.”

Lugo had known she wanted to work in criminal justice since she was young. Before living full time with her mother, she was put in the middle of a bad custody battle between her parents. Then, she was pulled aside by the judge.

“There was a judge, the Honorable Regina Parker, and she sat me down and asked me what I wanted and what would help me thrive,” said Lugo. “I told her that I wanted to stay in the community I was in and the back and forth between there and Myrtle Beach was hard on me. Judge Parker said I was old enough and mature enough to decide what I wanted to do, and that was the moment it really clicked that I wanted to work in criminal justice.”

Lugo now gets the opportunity to work as a probation officer with Judge Parker, who gave her a chance all those years ago.

“Full time I am a Probation/Parole Officer with the NC Department of Adult Corrections,” said Lugo. “I have been in this position since October 2023 and absolutely love it. You get to be a counselor, while still having the law enforcement aspect to help put offenders on the road to successful rehabilitation.” 

Probation allows Lugo to work with those experiencing struggles with substance abuse and mental health issues.

“I am motivated to help others be the best versions of themselves,” said Lugo. “Everyone struggles and it is important to address those struggles. I am passionate about helping others recognize the importance of mental health and what it means to be kind to your mind and my job allows just that. I would like to eventually have a specialized caseload and be a mental health officer or assist with a program we have, Drug/Recovery Court.”

Between her work as a probation officer and her volunteer work as a firefighter, Lugo gets to see a lot of her rural community. She looks at the good within it, and she can also see the areas that need improvement.

“There is work that needs to be done when it comes to funding for our fire departments and first responders, but in the last week I have seen proactive efforts being taken to address the needs,” said Lugo. “I am hopeful for the success of rural North Carolina and the communities within due to individuals who come back to their communities to help them thrive.”

Lugo credits programs like the Golden LEAF Scholarship as a major support for rural communities.

“I have seen this firsthand through programs like the Golden LEAF Scholarship and the internship program, which I got to participate in, what extra support can result in,” said Lugo. “I am a result of this support and am truly thankful for the Golden LEAF Scholarship and the community that has come with it.”

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