By: Johnson C. Smith University

Niya Culbreth ’22 was wrapping up her senior year, prepared to relax before crossing the stage at JCSU to receive her diploma.

Little did the Criminology student know, she’d have the opportunity to not only intern with Mecklenburg County ABC Board, but start an ongoing partnership with the agency for future JCSU students.

“My plan was to relax during my spring semester because I only needed one more class to graduate,” she said. “I called my grandma and told her about the opportunity and she convinced me to apply and go for the internship.”

Later that same week, Sgt. L. Riley from Mecklenburg County ABC Board called Culbreth to set up an interview. Though Culbreth wasn’t confident that she’d be offered the spot, she received a call from Riley, who assured her that the whole team had chosen her as their first pick.

Culbreth started her internship in the spring, and worked with the entire team, including Riley and Sgt. Kevin Stone, the director of Law Enforcement for the Board.

“Niya was an exceptional intern and a great person,” said Stone. “She is very mature for her age and represented JCSU very well. She is a hard worker with a willingness to learn and retain knowledge, but her biggest asset is her personality. This can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t.”

While the ABC board is mostly known for selling alcohol in a socially responsible manner throughout the county’s 29 stores, many are unaware of what the law enforcement side of Meckleburg County ABC Board does.

This division is responsible for enforcing ABC and drug laws, and often conducts compliance inspections and investigations at ABC-permitted establishments. They are also instrumental in educating on responsible alcohol sales and champion causes against alcohol use and sale to minors.

Stone says the internship provides a great glance into what his division does each day.

“The purpose of the internship is a part of the community engagement commitment the Board strives to have,” said Stone. “The internship is designed to partner a student with an interest in a career in criminal justice or a related field with an opportunity to observe and learn firsthand what officers do on a daily basis.”

During her internship, Culbreth conducted daily inspections, monitored criminal activities at Board locations, assisted on patrols (including on a boat at Lake Norman and on late-night undercover operations), attended gun range training and networked with other agencies.

“I learned a lot about ABC laws, policies, how police officers conduct their daily duties and a lot of life lessons,” said Culbreth. “I was able to use what I learned in my ethics course while shadowing a police officer.”

Dr. Nicola Bivens, associate professor and program coordinator of Criminology, was excited to learn about the internship opportunity, especially because the Board has been a strong educational partner to JCSU.

Agents within the division have served on JCSU’s annual Crime, Justice and Law Week Career and Professional Symposium each March. Now, she is looking forward to what the internship can do for future students.

“Not only has this internship steered student interest in ABC, but it is also the first time in my 14 years at JCSU that we’ve had a Criminology student complete an internship with the organization,” Bivens said.

Culbreth is also excited about what this opportunity can do for future Smithites.

“My advice is to always be open to trying something new and never be scared,” said Culbreth, who admitted had initial reservations working in the field. “If you take part in this internship, you might see things that will make you emotional and change your views on things, but that will motivate you to earn that criminology degree and make a change in the world. You’re in good hands at the Board, so have fun and learn a lot!”

Culbreth is looking forward to taking what she learned at JCSU and Mecklenburg County ABC Board to Louisiana State University where she will be pursuing a Master of Social Work starting this fall.

Learn more about JCSU’s Criminology program at

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