Nine new recruits graduated last week from the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Midway.
Members of the Basic Recruit Class 347 were welcomed by Training Center Director James Murdaugh, who also introduced guest speaker, Ricky Lay.
Lay, who is employed at the Wakulla Correctional Institute in the training division and has also served as a minister and a U.S. Marine, first thanked parents and friends of the graduates.
“You have changed the direction of the future,” he told them.
Lay then addressed the graduates, reminding them of their good fortune at being accepted into the PTLEA program.
“You could be on the way to prison or standing in the unemployment line,” he said. “You are blessed to be here this evening.”
Lay said the theme of his speech would be unity, and he challenged the recruits to give thought to the things we can all accomplish when we work together.
“Everybody wants to be the big fish in the pond,” he said. “But we have to live together, and we might as well learn to work together as well. We can do anything when we work together.”
He also challeged the recruits to strive to always be a positive influence in the lives of those around them, saying that it is sometimes a challenge to see the positive in all situations, but we must all strive to “focus not on the negative but instead think, ‘What can I do to make it better?’ ”
In closing, Lay challenged the graduates to have integrity, respect themselves and others, strive to develop credibility and responsibility and be good citizens.
“On tombstones, there is the date of birth and the date of death. That little mark in between represents the life of that person. Make your mark in the world deep, long and strong,” he said.
Recruit Bernice Johnson, chosen as the class speaker and secretary/treasurer, recalled how the class had struggled, losing members in the beginning when the going got tough, and how many of them had struggled with authority in the beginning.
“But we talked about leadership and we learned that we all needed to become leaders,” she said, adding that the class had bonded and learned to work together and respect each other and their instructors.
Andrea Blalock, corrections coordinator, presented awards to the top students in the class. Receiving the Top Defensive Tactics Award was Shaunterricka Dukes. The Top Gun Award went to Jeremiah Showers, while Jalisa Jackson received the Top Academic Award.
Recruits receiving their certificates included Aljarrod Baker, Alteondre Baker, Shaunterricka Dukes, Jalisa Jackson, Shareda Jackson, Bernice Johnson, Tiffanie Mansfield, Monique Redding and Jeremiah Showers.