On May 25, friends and family gathered at the auditorium located on Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s Gordon County Campus to honor the students graduating from the Basic Law Enforcement Day Academy.

During the ceremony, 16 law enforcement officers graduated after completing the 19 week course.

The keynote speaker for the ceremony was Barbara Massey Reece, state representative for Chattooga and Floyd Counties.

Reece began the ceremony by saying a special thank you to Jim Pledger, director of the Law Enforcement Academy, GNTC, and the graduates for inviting her to be part of the ceremony that is a milestone in the life of the graduates.

Reece then shared an article that she had read with the students discussing recent statistics and the direction students were going in their careers. “Most students wanted to go the business route where they could make a lot of money,” said Reece. “But you chose to serve your community and I am glad that you are going to be part of that public service.”

According to another article Reece read, every government should consider public safety the number one priority and she agrees. “If the citizens are not safe in their own home, everything else is meaningless,” commented Reece. “As you pursue your duties as peace officer, and I emphasize the word peace, I challenge you to be the best that you can be, to do what is fair and right, to gain respect from the community, and to be the kind of officer that a little child can look up to.”

Reece encouraged the graduates to continue their education and better their skills. She wished them success in their journey and congratulated them for their accomplishments.

In closing, she left them with an Irish blessing. “May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, and the rain fall softly all around you. Congratulations and God speed.”

The student speaker for the ceremony was Dustin E. Stroup. Stroup joked with the crowd as he shared the ups and downs the class faced together. “We’ve been up the hill then back down the hill and told to do it again. We’ve been up in pushups then down in pushups and told to do it again. But this has been a great program,” said Stroup. “I could have chosen to attend other colleges but I decided to come here. Not only did we get our basic mandate, we received a college education which in today’s economy takes you further than anything else you can obtain.”

Stroup then addressed his fellow graduates by saying, “I’m proud to say these are my brothers sitting here with me. If you ever need me, you have my number and I will be there to back you up.”

The students presented a plaque to GNTC with a group picture of the graduating class.

Two graduates were recognized during the ceremony. The first award presented was the Academic Award, an honor presented to the student with the highest average. The award was given to Dustin E. Stroup. The second award presented was the Top Gun Award, an honor given to the student with the highest score on the firing range. The award was given to Stephen C. Murphy, who set a school record by scoring a perfect 300.