Slain Officer Aréanah Preston’s mother to accept her graduate degree from Loyola University

Chicago police Officer Aréanah Preston was supposed to walk across a stage Saturday and accept her master’s degree from Loyola University Chicago.

But that triumphant moment was taken from her when she was gunned down in a robbery last weekend outside her home.

Instead, Preston’s mother, Dionne Mhoon, will accept the degree on her behalf during the commencement ceremony, the university says. Preston was pursuing a master’s of jurisprudence from the school.

"She was a student who was dynamic, intelligent, committed and a very driven person who wanted to make this world a better place," said Sara Block, academic director for child and family law programs at Loyola.

Block, who had Preston in her child welfare and juvenile justices classes, said the officer was trying to get the education she wanted while still performing her duties as a public servant. Preston would sometimes log in to her online classes from her patrol car while still in uniform.

Block said Preston had a balanced philosophy of prioritizing safety for individuals and communities while also prioritizing rehabilitation and understanding why people make the sometimes harmful choices they make.

"She was trying to understand how can these systems better meet those individuals’ needs before they do something that’s really harmful," Block said. "It was a unique perspective as a law enforcement officer, and that was really evident in how she viewed the issues."


Four teenagers have been charged in connection with Preston’s slaying. After the suspects appeared in court Wednesday, Mhoon told reporters that the family was looking forward to a large party celebrating Preston’s and other family members’ academic accomplishments.

"Our university community is shocked and saddened by her tragic passing," a Loyola spokesperson said. "She will be remembered by her faculty and classmates for her kindness, intellect and commitment to service. We wish to express our deepest condolences to the Preston family and to all those whose lives she touched."

Preston previously got her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and law enforcement administration from Illinois State University.

That’s where she met professor Charles Bell, who said Preston was a "very engaged, very vocal student, very respectful of others’ opinion and just very passionate about making a difference and showing young people that policing is a profession that can make a difference in the community."

Since Preston’s death, her Loyola classmates have shared kind words with Block about the impression she left them with.

"They knew she wanted to make a difference and better her community," Block said. "She was excited about her future. They appreciated her input in class. They saw her as a bright light."

Family and friends offered similar thoughts during a vigil for Preston attended by hundreds Tuesday at the Fifth District police station, where she was assigned.

"Officer Preston saw herself as someone who could help others overcome challenges by being encouraging and believing in them," Block said. "She saw herself as really trying to make a mark, not just for her family and her community, but for generations to come."