GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Fourteen young men and women graduated Friday morning from the Harrison County law enforcement training academy, during a ceremony at the Jefferson Davis campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
They spent nine weeks in "boot camp" style training, learning to become better police officers. They completed a rigorous course that challenged them mentally and physically. Now, the graduating class is ready to live-up to its motto: Proud and prepared.
"As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, 'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience. But where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.' We all had to dig deep and find that out for ourselves," said class leader, Van Garrard.
The District Attorney-elect told them he considers law enforcement a calling.
"And I know I'm preaching to the choir, 'cause you wouldn't be here today if you thought otherwise. But this truly is a calling. It is a chance to give back to the people around you. A chance to help people who have been victimized by crime," said Joel Smith.
Many of the graduates heard that calling at an early age.
"When you're a kid and you're in elementary school and you see your first police officer for the first time, it's something you're interested in. It just stuck with me. I always had an interest in it and that's why I'm here," said Christopher Scott, who works for the Mississippi Gaming Commission.
Nicholas Oster is following a family tradition of wearing the uniform. The Gulfport police officer admits the academy was challenging.
"It was tough. Every morning we'd get up at four o'clock. PT at five. Class all day and then we had chores after that. It was good. Good training. But it was tough," he said.
Terence Crump is happy to graduate. The 27-year-old security officer at Hinds Community College dreams of becoming a police chief one day.
"I like the community part of it. Going around and talking to citizens. Helping out and just assisting the community," said Crump.
They're now ready for future challenges: Proud and prepared.