WNC News & Notes: Scholarship helps students realize law enforncement education
August 16, 2014
Being in a position to help young adults reach their educational and professional goals has become a calling for Carson City residents Robert and Penny Waters.
For two years, the retired couple has been making a huge difference in the lives of students in Western Nevada College's State Peace Officer Academy, a 30-credit program that prepares students for careers in law enforcement. In each of the past two years, they have provided a student with a $9,000 scholarship. Their generosity will continue indefinitely, the couple says.
"I'm really thankful that we're in a position to help these kids out," Robert Waters said. "We made it a requirement that it go to someone that really needs it … someone who might be a single parent or whatever the reason may be."
Robert began his professional career as a police officer, working in several California cities before transitioning to employment in the private sector. He worked in casino security and management, followed by an investigative position with the state of Nevada for 25 years.
Procedures have definitely changed from when Robert was a rookie police officer in California.
"In my time, it was like the Wild West compared to these days," he said. "They did a background check and then you were given a car, a badge and a gun. It was kind of scary. It was six months before they sent me to the academy. It's nowhere comparable to what (the cadets) go through now."
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The Bob and Penny Waters POST endowment provides a full scholarship to the academy for a cadet each year, said Katie Leao, director of development at WNC.
"It will enable the Waters family to leave a legacy at WNC while providing cadets the benefits of reaching their educational and career goals," she said.
Robert said that since he and his wife started the scholarship, he has made it a point to keep up with the recipients, Nathan Cooper (2013) and Jesus Lopez-Torres (2014). Robert attended Lopez-Torres' graduation last spring and would have attended Cooper's graduation ceremony if not for tending to a family matter.
"I like to follow up with them and see how they are doing," said Robert, who has met with Cooper before and after his graduation. Cooper is now working for the Lyon County Sheriff's Department.
Meanwhile, Lopez-Torres has been busy applying for employment with the Carson City Sheriff's Office Reserve Program and Nevada Department of Corrections.
"These wonderful folks, Bob and Penny Waters, were highly instrumental in helping out the most needy of our students who applied for financial aid," said Katie Durbin, coordinator of WNC's State Peace Officer Academy.
Lopez-Torres said that he likely would have needed to wait at least a year to attend the academy without the scholarship provided by Robert and Penny.
"At the time, I was struggling a lot financially; I had gotten into a car accident, and I had a major debt," said Lopez-Torres, who has a young son. "I applied for the scholarship, and I was surprised that I got it.
"I really got to focus on what was important, which was the material at the time. I was really grateful for it.
"I hope to keep in contact with him as far as I'm going in law enforcement," Lopez-Torres said. "They are the nicest people I've ever met. I can compare with what I was going through at the time with Robert's experiences. It was very difficult and one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life."
In retirement, the Waters have been able to pursue some other passions while dividing time between Carson City and Las Vegas. Robert has written a book based on a case that went unresolved when he was a new officer on the street. The book, titled "The Case That Wouldn't Close," may one day have a sequel, as Robert is working on the project.
"That's my big thing. I really enjoy it and really found something in it," Robert said.
Penny, meanwhile, now has time in retirement to make jewelry that she sells locally.
"We both have something to keep us active," Robert said.
Leao said that the college is also benefiting from knowing the couple. "The Waters are a great addition to the Western Nevada College family, and the Foundation is grateful for their commitment to our students."
Community donations assist college
The Western Nevada College Jack C. Davis Observatory has another telescope to enhance student learning opportunities, thanks to a donation from an Incline Village man. In addition, a camera and office materials have been donated to by two Northern Nevada residents.
Robert Mimiaga has donated a NexStar 5 Celestron telescope with accessories, including a solar filter and tripod, to WNC.
WNC also received 2,000 office folders from Sherri Thurin of the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs in Carson City, as well as a Pentax ZX-50 SLR 35mm camera from Gary Culbertson of Fallon.
"Through donations from people in the communities we serve, our efforts to provide quality education are strengthened," said WNC President Chester Burton. "Their support of Western Nevada College and its students is greatly appreciated."