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2023 - Set for the future, ECC student-athlete Leah Murphy fulfills dreams on and off the court

Tags: Alumni Profile
Published 02/27/2023
ECC alum Leah Murphy

ECC alum Leah Murphy

In the fall of 2022, Elgin Community College’s reverse student population — meaning students who already earned a bachelor’s degree or higher — increased by 40%. One of those new students was Leah Murphy.

Murphy enrolled in ECC’s Emergency Medical Technician program after receiving her bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and a master’s degree in public safety from Western Illinois University. Murphy’s decision to attend ECC allowed her to keep moving forward while working toward her ultimate goal: becoming a United States marshal. 

“In 2019, I did an internship with the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), and right away, I knew this was the career for me,” said Murphy. “I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders because there is so much pressure to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life at 18 years old.”

Murphy’s interest in law enforcement began at a young age, having grown up with role models in careers that help others, her mother a teacher and grandmother a nurse. After finishing her master’s degree, Murphy received a conditional offer from the USMS. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed her processing into the academy. “It was not easy because I had my two degrees, and then I felt like I was just sitting around, not really sure what to do with my life,” she said. “I picked up a few part-time jobs, but I kept thinking to myself, ‘what are you doing?’”

Murphy, an Elgin native, enrolled in ECC’s EMT program to gain more experience with emergency management. “The USMS could call at any time, but I didn’t want my life to be the same six months from now because I didn’t do anything about it,” said Murphy.

Deciding to go back to school gave Murphy the opportunity to fulfill another dream of being a collegiate athlete. “At WIU, I tried each semester to walk on the volleyball team, but they didn’t take walk-ons. Not being able to play a collegiate sport was always a big regret for me,” she said. Along with making the women’s volleyball team, Murphy received a scholarship through the ECC Athletic Department. 

“There were so many moments when I would think, ‘what did I get myself into?’” said Murphy. “Volleyball was fun, but I’ve been out of school for almost two years, I work all day, and now a collegiate sport? I had to tell myself I did this because I wanted to go forward without any regrets.”

Murphy graduated from ECC’s EMT program with high honors in December 2022. While pursuing her degree, she finally received the call — her spot at the USMS National Basic Training Academy was ready. After five months of training in Georgia, she will be stationed in Chicago.

“The thing about law enforcement is that it isn’t necessarily a career, but more of a calling,” said Murphy. “You just know you’re going to do it.”