Arial Birtley ’18 will wield community-minded ethics in juvenile justice role


Birtley hitting at batThose working in the U.S. justice system bear more visibility than ever. With expanding access to public records and footage from traffic stops, courtrooms and police stations, pressure to do the right thing is on.

The day after spring Commencement, Arial Birtley ’18 stepped into her new role as a corrections officer at the Lake County Juvenile Court. For the past four years, the Mentor, Ohio native has been a visible beacon of ethical conduct, empathy and excellence at Lake Erie College.

Birtley graduated summa cum laude with two majors, criminal justice and psychology, as well as some powerful wisdom.

“She is compassionate, smart, outgoing and always goes above and beyond what is expected or required of her. She is always willing and happy to help her peers, and always exhibits that infectious smile,” said President Brian Posler when he bestowed the President’s Award upon her at Honors Convocation on May 4, 2018.

Birtley carried her growth mindset onto the softball diamond as an outfielder. In 2016, she was named to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conferece (GLIAC) All-Academic Excellence Team. Under her captainship, her team then advanced to the 2018 Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC) post-season tournament.

As a team captain, resident assistant, Lake Erie College ambassador, member of Mortar Board, and orientation leader, Birtley handled confrontation and resolved disputes among her peers. For her efforts, she received the 2018 Academic Excellence Award for the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Her advisor, Associate Professor of Legal Studies Joanne Gurley, J.D. said, “She monitored an average of 25 residential students. In this capacity, she helped build her community, enforced rules and policies, and promoted the safety and well-being of these students.”

Birtley excelled in a coveted internship at the juvenile court while devoting 20 hours weekly to her sport, fulfilling club duties and maintaining near perfect grades.Birtley fielding a ball

Gurley described her as “a force of energy.”

“Arial so impressed the people at the Juvenile Court that she was offered a job in the corrections office there. She starts on Monday—the day after graduation,” Gurley said at Honors Convocation. “She spent time working in all 5 areas of the Court. I know some of the people who work in the Juvenile Court, and one day I was casually talking with one of them. This person started talking about the terrific intern from LEC—how Arial did anything and everything so well and what a great attitude she had.”

Birtley accepting awardBirtley owes her success in part to her persistent values. She opened her mind to diverse perspectives but stayed true to herself.

“Coming to college, you see people from all walks of life. What you don't think is normal may be normal to them,” she said.

Although she had first hoped to leave home for college, she found opportunities unique to LEC’s small, close-knit campus.

“There have been many times where I had to escape my comfort zone, especially with being an RA,” she said.
“Being in various clubs and organizations on campus, I made new friends coming from all different walks of life, so escaping my normal friend group was definitely a challenge but worth it.”

Lake Erie College hadn’t surfaced as an option for her until late in her college decision-making process.

“The campus was beautiful, and I loved how small of a school it was. What sealed my decision was the relationships that staff members had with students and how friendly everyone was. The staff and faculty can help you succeed with one-on-one attention whenever you need it. They also get to know you on a personal level,” she said.

Those meaningful ties helped to narrow her career focus and gain skills that will support her lifelong learning.

“What really affirmed my decision about my career was Dr. Susan Culotta's juvenile delinquency course. Learning about juvenile delinquency and the in-depth issues and causes of it really confirmed that I wanted to join this field and work with kids.”

Lake Erie College is delighted to be the perfect fit for outstanding leaders like Arial Birtley. We know she will be a positive influence on her community wherever her passion leads her.

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