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Alumni Stories: How Tragedy Led to The Pursuit of Justice

When tragedy strikes, it’s like lightning. One moment can turn an otherwise-normal day into the day everything changed. When a parent’s worst nightmare becomes reality—what is left standing? How do they move forward?

Jennifer Hardy knows. She was working in early childhood education and had earned her associate’s degree in Early Childhood Care and Education from American Public University. She had spent years working with children with disabilities, specializing in special education and focusing on the importance of inclusive education. Then her daughter was struck by a school bus and killed. And everything changed.

As Jennifer mourned the loss of her daughter, her grief started to move her in a new direction. Her loss inspired her to learn about the law and better understand legal issues. Jennifer once again enrolled in American Public University, this time earning her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.  

“I have always had a deep passion for helping others and making a difference in their lives,” she says. “Values such as justice, equity, and equality resonate with me deeply.”

Jennifer believes in giving every situation a positive attitude and the willingness to make a difference. Despite the horror she went through, this part of her has only grown stronger. “By doing this, I can be sure that I am providing the best possible support and assistance to those who need it.”

Finding the Support She Needed to Support Others

Jennifer Hardy and John Robert Morton at the Meadowview Christian School in Selma, Alabama where they met by chance during a sporting event.

Pursuing more education in a new field is hard enough when your life hasn’t just been upended. But Jennifer dove into her criminal justice studies with that same passion to help people that has guided her through most of her life.

“My experience at APU has been transformative,” Jennifer says, explaining that she found a supportive and inclusive learning environment at APU. She also notes that her faculty were truly dedicated to their students and their subjects. “APU’s approach to learning has provided me with invaluable skills that I know will be pivotal in my future career.”

Jennifer is considering several ways to apply her criminal justice degree. She has always believed that being informed about the law is pivotal to a fair and just society. She is considering a law degree down the road and also looking into careers in advocacy work, corrections, or possibly even law enforcement.

“Studying law has allowed me to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to make a real impact in the world.”

Always Helping Others and Looking Forward

While there have been incredible challenges and setbacks along the way, Jennifer has always considered them opportunities for growth and learning. Every experience, both positive and negative, has helped shape her into the person she is today and prepared her for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

“Looking back on my life so far, I am proud of how far I have come and the progress I have made towards my goals,” she said.

Regardless of what Jennifer decides to do next, she will always be driven by her passion to help others and never stop learning. She was once told that having a kind heart and a genuine desire to help others is an invaluable trait that should guide one’s efforts. She has taken that advice to heart. By continuing to help others, she is filled with gratitude and the fulfillment that comes from making a real and positive impact on the lives of others.

About Alumni Affairs

The Alumni Affairs Office is dedicated to sustaining lifelong relationships with university alumni by providing engaging opportunities to stay involved and connected. We work closely with a variety of stakeholders to strengthen the alumni experience and to offer a variety of benefits, services, activities, and events throughout the year.

As a team, the Alumni Affairs team works to build and sustain relationships with alumni along their personal and professional journeys. We actively look for ways to recognize and showcase alumni, telling their stories to motivate and encourage students in the pursuit of their goals.

If you are a member of the alumni community and are looking for ways to remain actively involved, please contact alumni@apus.edu and speak with a member of the team.

John Robert Morton is a Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison and has been with the University for 14 years. His bachelor’s degree in European history is from Troy University in Troy, Alabama. He also completed master’s degrees in political science and sports management from American Military University. As a liaison, John Robert enjoys helping students and alumni to achieve their personal and professional goals.

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