Zac Kline spent his summer interacting with convicted criminals.
And he loved every minute of it.
“It just secured my idea that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” said the Lakeland University senior, who hails from Luxemburg, Wis.
To clarify, Kline didn’t turn to crime during his break. No, he interned as a probation and parole agent with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
Working out of the De Pere office, Kline executed visits to the homes of parolees, interviewed criminals who are on probation and took statements from inmates. On one of his first days, a probationer who had failed a drug test was arrested during the man’s office visit.
“I had a blast and I'm still alive!” Kline wrote on his Facebook wall. “It's crazy to think that I want to deal with offenders as my career but I'm ready!”
“My parents are like, ‘What the heck?’” Kline said with a smile. “They told me to be careful a lot.”
Kline, who plays for Lakeland’s soccer team, was a psychology major, but changed to criminal justice. His chosen career field will require expertise in both disciplines.
“It’s a job where you can’t believe everything you hear,” he said. “You can often tell in people’s eyes whether they’re being truthful or not. But there can be no fear in this profession. They’ll eat you alive if they sense fear.”
During Kline’s internship, a parolee came into the office crying, saying “I messed up” and admitting that he had consumed alcohol the night before. And on a home visit, Kline and an agent encountered a huge snake and tarantulas roaming free.
Kline said he’s learned a lot from his criminal justice curriculum, adding that Richard Lemke, assistant professor of criminal justice, has “been a really big help, and has shared a lot of wisdom.”
After he graduates, Kline will take the probation and parole officer exam, then start the application process. His resume will be strong, and he has standing letter-of-recommendation offers from agents he worked with this summer.
“I’ve always wanted to give back to the community, and this is my way,” he said. “Sometimes, people just need someone to talk to, someone to be honest with them but also to help them get counseling, go to AA meetings or get to church. Help them turn things around.”