Student Spotlight: Deanna Radtke
Major: Paralegal Studies
After beginning classes in the Paralegal Studies Program at College of DuPage, Deanna Radtke was unsure if it was the right profession for her.
“My interest in possibly becoming an attorney led me to the program, because I felt it was a good way to become familiar with the environment of the legal profession,” she said. “While I enjoy research and gathering evidence to win any type of argument, the paperwork and rules were not half as appealing. But the instructors were professionals in the legal field and their enthusiasm inspired me. The legal field offers so many opportunities and there is an area of law for almost everyone’s taste.”
Radtke also knew College of DuPage was a good match. As an adult who worked full-time, she could take advantage of an inexpensive yet valuable education and courses that were available online and as independent learning that she could fit into her busy schedule.
“The Paralegal program offered practical learning with teachers who worked in legal professions,” she said. “My preference is criminal law and civil litigation. Sally N. Fairbank (the Paralegal program coordinator) helped me get into a law office in Villa Park with an attorney who truly has passion for what he is fighting for. I began interning with him in April of 2012 and as the end of the semester came near, he offered me a position at his firm.”
Radtke earned her associate’s degree and took advantage of the opportunity. However, an even better one was just around the corner. She was set to join the U.S. Air Force Reserves as a fuel cell technician and had discussed this with her new employer.
“The military has always been appealing to me because of the educational benefits and the chance to do something not only for myself but also my country,” she said. “The weekend prior to my departure, I was recruited by the Legal office on base and after a two-hour interview and 48 hours of gathering all of the necessary paperwork, a recommendation packet went out to headquarters and then the Pentagon.
“It turns out that the Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel and Senior Master Sergeants were so impressed with the reference letters and my academic background, they requested a rushed approval. Two days after anxious anticipation, I was approved by the Pentagon to become a paralegal at the Judge Advocate General’s office for the United States Air Force.”
Since then, Radtke was promoted to Senior Airman and worked at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois as a part of the legal team, where she gained experience in general law and military justice. She also has worked on a Professional Education Development Board at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.
“This board specifically focuses on evaluating the skills and accomplishments of paralegals and law office personnel. They then make valuable recommendations to each member to ensure they continue to grow in their field,” she said. “The Air Force has demonstrated a genuine interest in the future of their airmen and take a significant role in guiding them in the right direction to strengthen their careers.”
Having earned her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Roosevelt University, Radke was transferred to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and promoted to staff sergeant. She now works in the civilian sector as a contract manager/paralegal at Meritage Homes Corporation in Scottsdale, Ariz. She also completed a six-month tour at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany in the legal office and currently is finishing a master’s degree in Psychology at Grand Canyon University.
She also took the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) and is waiting for a position to open at her current base.
Radke has high praise for the Paralegal Studies program at College of DuPage and Fairbank.
“School was a very long and difficult journey for me, but it was worth every minute of it when I was able to share my story and accomplishments with the Lieutenant Colonel of the JAG office,” she said. “The COD instructors honestly want their students to succeed and the knowledge they provide is practical and allows us to enter our new careers prepared. When I initially learned I needed to come up with 120 hours of practicum hours, I was terrified because I was already working full-time, but I am so thankful that it was mandatory because it led me to such great accomplishments.
“I encourage all students to embrace the struggles that school may create as stepping stones to a fulfilling future.”
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