Yovanna Vest is Proof Positive that … A Journey of a Thousand Miles, Begins with a Single Step

Yovanna Vest is Proof Positive that …

A Journey of a Thousand Miles, Begins with a Single Step


FAYETTEVILLE – University of Mount Olive alumna Yovana Vest lives by the old adage, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Vest was born in the Republic of Panama.  She grew up as a military dependent and was forced to constantly adapt to new surroundings.


“I guess that’s why I always welcome change in my life,” she said. “Of course it’s scary at first, but after a while it becomes the norm.”


Growing up in a military family, it was only natural that Vest enlisted. She joined the Air Force at age 19 and stayed for approximately three years. While in the military she married and had her son, Giovanni. Soon afterwards she left the military to become a stay at home mom for the next three years.  After her divorce Vest moved to Fayetteville to be near her family. She had a high school diploma and a child to support. She took several jobs ranging from medical claims assistant to a Staples employee. She soon realized that those jobs were unfulfilling and not suited for her.


“I knew I wanted a career that my son and I would be proud of, one where I could make a positive impact.  So, I joined the law enforcement family,” she said.


While in the basic law enforcement training academy, one of Vest’s instructors was a huge advocate for education and encouraged her to get a degree. Vest graduated the academy and was hired by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office where she worked several different areas over the next 10 years including:  courthouse bailiff, school resource officer, special victims’ unit detective, financial crimes detective, homicide detective, and hostage negotiator.


In 2006, at the age of 27, Vest started attending Mount Olive College, now the University of Mount Olive. “I knew that I wanted a college that was tailored for my needs. As a full time working single mother, I didn’t have time to spend three or four nights a week going to school. I searched everywhere and Mount Olive College was the only college that offered five week courses where we could attend one night a week. In approximately three years, with credit for prior learning, I obtained my bachelors in business management with an emphasis in organizational development.”


Obtaining her degree opened many career doors for Vest.


“My work with the Sheriff’s Office combined with my education has prepared me for my current position as the school director for Basic Law Enforcement Training at Fayetteville Technical Community College.”


In her job Vest has the opportunity to help mold average citizens into NC law enforcement officers.  She is responsible for all of the training that goes on with becoming a police officer in the state of NC.  She has more than 30 instructors that teach for her, and she runs three BLET Academies a year. Vest is responsible for recruiting, helping new students through the application process, scheduling classes, purchasing equipment and supplies, teaching, and managing people.


“My job entails making sure the training runs as smoothly as possible, which sometimes seems near impossible,” she smiled.


Vest credits a great deal of her professional success to her college degree.  “When I took this job I couldn’t believe how much of my career was centered on my business degree. The classes that immediately came to mind when I got this job were my marketing and leadership classes. The knowledge I received from my marketing class at Mount Olive has helped me in everything from recruiting applicants and designing brochures to appealing to my target audience.”


The 36 year old definitely has a highly motivated go-getter attitude, much of which is due to her son.  “My son motivates me,” Vest shared. “He is the reason why I am where I am today. I have always believed that you have to lead by example. I want the best for my son and I knew that a step in the right direction for him would be for me to get a college education. I wanted him to see that anything is possible as long as you want it, work hard for it, and overcome whatever obstacles get in the way.”


As for advice for students considering going back to school, Vest said, “Start today! Don’t wait for the perfect time. There is never a perfect time. There is only now! You have to set goals for yourself, no matter how big or small they are. I always focus on the steps that I need to complete to achieve my goals. One quote that has always helped me through any goal I’ve set for myself is ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’.”


The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit old.umo.edu.