SJR STATE ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT
Alena King Lawson (1975),
Chief Investigator, Retired Lieutenant
Each week, St. Johns River State College will honor one of its own in an alumni salute, celebrating the career milestones, community contributions and personal reflections of those who began their collegiate journey as SJR State Vikings.
Alena King Lawson is a hands-on, service-oriented leader with several notable firsts. When she retired from the Gainesville Police Department after nearly 21 years of service, she was the only African-American female lieutenant, corporal and sergeant to have served for the Agency. As a student at SJR State from 1973-1975, Alena was instrumental in starting the first Black Student Union, of which she was the first president.
Today, Alena is the president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and works as the chief investigator for the Public Defender’s Office, where she is a Board Certified Criminal Defense Investigator. "I love people and have a passion for serving others," said Alena. It’s fitting that her favorite quote is “People don’t care how much you know until you show how much you care,” by Theodore Roosevelt.
After Alena graduated from SJR State with her A.A. degree, she continued her studies at Florida State University and received her bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in criminology. When asked why she began her college journey at SJR State, Alena explained that not only did the College have a good business program, but several of her high school friends would be playing sports at the College.
Prior to attending SJR State, Alena was a student at Newberry Junior-Senior High School, where she graduated with honors. In her Newberry community, Alena later served on the Newberry City Commission for 12 years, serving as vice mayor for five of those years. She has also served as the vice president of agency relations for United Way, the business community liaison at Gainesville Job Corps, and as a past president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., of which she has been a member for over 30 years.
In 2012, Alena was one of five women honored with Santa Fe College’s Women of Distinction Award. "This was a big highlight in my journey to serve mankind," Alena noted. Then, in 2014, the computer lab at the newly constructed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center in her hometown was named after her.
While her love for others propels Alena to serve the bigger community in a variety of ways, she has another little community that’s her pride and joy – her three grandchildren, as well as her two children who, like their mom, graduated from Florida State University.
Alena's heart for children extends through the work of her hands, as she demonstrated by serving as a volunteer coordinator for the Department of Children and Families and in her current role as the chair of SIATech Charter High School's Board of Directors. She also serves on the Mycroschool Charter High and Central Florida Community Action Agency Boards and formerly served on the Alachua County Schools Education Foundation.
To current and future college students, Alena says, "Being able to attend college is an awesome opportunity to gain knowledge and new friends. Stay focused on your goal of graduating, with the ultimate goal of becoming a productive citizen. Stay true to yourself."
About her own SJR State experience, Alena reflected, "My entire experience at the College was awesome. I got to know most of the faculty members and gained lifelong friends as a result of my being there for two years. I am a proud alum of St. Johns, and much of my success is a result of the education and knowledge I gained. I will be forever grateful."
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Director of Public Relations and Publications