Arkansas State University - Newport

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January 2020

#MyASUNstory: Ricky Morales

 

With more than 15 years of law enforcement experience, Ricky Morales could have said going back to school was a waste of time. But with the encouragement of a dear friend, he decided it was time to get his degree.

“I started my law enforcement career in April 2005 with the Diaz police department,” Morales said.

Making money at 18-years-old was all he was worried about at the time. Morales has worked in law enforcement in and around Jackson County for more than a decade. But it was his relationship with Patrick Weatherford, years later, that pushed him to reach a new goal.

“I watched Patrick Weatherford go through school, and we were really good friends,” Morales said. “He kind of got that triggered for me to go back to school.”

Morales, as an investigator, crossed paths with Patrick Weatherford often as they worked in law enforcement for different agencies. Over time, their working relationship became a friendship, one Morales still cherishes.  

“I started back, it was just shortly after Patrick had passed away,” Morales said. “He’d just finished the FBI academy, which I thought was an awesome deal. That’s something that he wanted too. He kept on telling me, you know, you need to go back. If that’s something you really want. He kind of pushed me some, so that’s what I did.”

Morales came to ASU-Newport to pursue his Associates Degree in Criminal Justice, the program that is now named after his friend- The Lieutenant Patrick Weatherford Criminal Justice Program.

He admits, going back to school all over again hasn’t been easy, but he credits ASUN’s faculty and staff for always being willing to help him succeed.

While going back to school was something he knew Weatherford wanted for him, it’s also something Morales felt compelled to do so that he could set an example for the kids he interacts with daily.

“I work pee-wee football games,” Morales said. “I do the scoreboard for them. I’m on the booster club. Just about any athletic event or something, I’m there. I’ve grown up with these kids coaching them through pee-wee, and now I get a chance to follow them that they are in high school…It’s rewarding getting to give them feedback. A lot of these kids, now, are fixing to go to the college level and now they are asking me what do I expect? And so now I can tell them.”

Over the years, Morales said he’s always tried to ask students about their grades and make sure they see school as a priority.

“I stay on them about their grades, and the typical answer is oh I have all A’s and B’s, and I say well I’ve got all A’s,” Morales said. “So I can kind of throw that back at them and kind of poke fun, but it’s fun watching their faces—they are always like you’re in school? You’re old. What are you doing in school? But that’s something I’ve always wanted to do and now I’m finishing.”

He said leading by example is what he always strives to do and getting an education is no different. Morales sees law enforcement as a very rewarding profession and hopes others are encouraged to pursue their passions.

“It’s never too late to go back,” Morales said. “If you’ve been in school and gotten out for certain reasons, it’s very rewarding, and I think people should give it another look.”

As for graduating from the program honoring his friend’s commitment to law enforcement and community, Morales said he knows Weatherford would be humbled to have his name represent the criminal justice program. He added, he hopes Weatherford would be proud that he’s now a college graduate!