Jacquelyn Sandage of Carson City stumbled upon her course in life.
A biology major who wanted to "swim in the ocean with the dolphins," she fell in love with law enforcement in 1987 after hearing the "war stories" of a former Kansas City-cop-turned-instructor in her criminal justice class.
She changed her major and got her bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 1991 from the University of Nevada, Reno.
While attending the Police Officer Standardized Training Academy in 1991 she met and -- two years later -- married Ken Sandage.
He went on to a career with the Carson City Sheriff's Department where he is currently a patrol sergeant, she became a NHP trooper.
Within six years, the couple would become the proud parents of two daughters -- Michelle now 7 and Danielle now 5.
Within 10 years, Sandage would make Nevada history.
On Sept. 16, the 33-year-old native Nevadan was pinned with lieutenant bars, becoming the first women to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the history of the Nevada Highway Patrol.
"I don't know if there's a word to describe how I feel," Sandage said Thursday. "I'm proud of the organization and I'm proud of the people in it. You can take away the lieutenants and captains and no one would care, but try going a day without the troopers."
With her recent promotion, Sandage joins the ranks of women like Lorie Libby, who in 1980 became the first female trooper, and Camilla J. Munns, who achieved the title of first female sergeant in 1989. Munns also was the first female to serve 20 years with the agency before her retirement in May.
Currently on a plain-clothes assignment heading the management review section of the Nevada Highway Patrol, Sandage said if it weren't for the support of her supervisors, she couldn't have made it.
"There are people in my career who have really benefited me," she said naming Director Richard Kirkland, deputy director Dave Kieckbusch and Col. Dave Hosmer. "They've been very very supportive of me. If it wasn't for them I wouldn't be where I am."
But Sandage, who was born and raised in Reno, said she owes most of her work ethic to her parents, Nancy and Jack Mertz, a teacher and a diesel mechanic.
"They are instrumental in my success. I have just absolutely wonderful parents," she said. "My mother was a school teacher for 20 years and she juggled the family and career very well. I always knew that's how I wanted to be. She is very successful and I thought if my mom did it I can do it."
Eventually Sandage hopes to return to patrol.
"I miss the road. I miss the patrol. But my time here has been a tremendous educational experience for me. So when I do go back out onto the street I will be so much better as a supervisor. And I will go back. Then someone else will come in and take advantage of the opportunity here," she said.