Help comes in many forms

Real world sadness leads to career decision for Marshall grad student
Steven Schumacher (right) is pictured with his parents, sister and brother, Ryne, at a family gathering in 2022.

At 11 years old, Steven Read Schumacher was like a lot of kids his age who were enamored with crime shows like CSI, NCIS and Law & Order. He dreamed of a career in law enforcement and now, as a dedicated graduate student in Marshall University’s award-winning online criminal justice program, he is fulfilling his dreams.

But there’s a twist to Steven’s story.

As a young child in Elkins, West Virginia, he was unaware that his older brother, Ryne, was struggling with an addiction involving prescription painkillers that eventually progressed to heroin. There is a 10-year age gap between the two siblings, and Steven was only partially aware how serious the situation was with his brother. Throughout his teen years, Steven saw his family continuing to suffer the fallout from Ryne’s addiction. Though they were a loving family, the stress and family dynamics intensified as they attempted to help Ryne, only to be met with failure after failure. In the meantime, Steven’s desire to work in criminal justice in some capacity was reinforced.

Steven Schumacher
Steven Schumacher poses for a photo during the West Virginia Criminal Justice Educators Association State Conference in 2022.

As Steven headed off to college at Marshall, earning his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, his brother Ryne saw his own success, completing rehabilitation and securing a career helping others through addiction in Florida. The brothers and their family gathered in the Sunshine State to celebrate Ryne’s fifth year of sobriety in December 2022, but shortly thereafter he relapsed after enduring several painful dental procedures. He subsequently died.

“To celebrate his five years of sobriety and have my big brother back was the greatest thing I could ask for,” Schumacher said. “He worked in the system for a few years, and he loved helping people get sober. Seeing that side and how the system helped him, makes me want to work with those with addiction and give back…. Also taking some of my first-hand knowledge of living with a family member suffering from addiction I think I can use to help others.”

At the time of Ryne’s death, Steven was just one semester away from completing his undergraduate degree. He thanked his professors for working with him during the time of Ryne’s death, saying he could not have asked for any better accommodations as he worked through the family trauma.

“I was in the middle of writing a 15-page capstone paper when it happened, and they all worked to push back my deadlines and accommodate me as best they could. If there’s an open line of communication, you’re good,” he said. “It’s a smaller department and the professors are always willing to help you.”

“You get to see that the criminal justice system is not at all like it is on TV. For me, it started with realizing that my older brother had addiction issues for a long time.”- Steven Schumacher

Steven hopes to initially work with juveniles and then in probation and parole with a focus on drug treatment areas of the criminal justice system.

Theoretically, he says, his Marshall degrees could take him anywhere, but West Virginia is home and more than likely he will stay in the Mountain State.

“There’s a fire in me to give back especially in this area that was hit so hard in the early 2000s,” Steven said.

He said an internship with the Randolph County Probation Office last summer provided him with some good experiences in drug court that will also help him when he graduates in December 2024 with his graduate degree in criminal justice.

“Marshall’s online criminal justice program allows me to work about 30 hours a week and complete a master’s program.  The professors are just great also. They are also open to talking. Very supportive.”- Steven Schumacher

A degree that he says will help him honor his brother.

“The master’s program at Marshall has given me such a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system,” Schumacher said. “I’m excited to join the workforce to use my personal experience and the knowledge I’ve gained to make a positive impact on the state of West Virginia.”

Marshall’s online master’s degree recently was recognized by U.S.News and World Report as the #33 online program in the country. For more information on the program, visit here.