Ruth Hernandez had never held a gun before she enrolled in Augusta Technical College's inaugural Peace Officers Training class.
But that was 18 weeks ago.
Ms. Hernandez left the school's graduation ceremony Thursday as the class sharpshooter, with the award for class "Top Gun" in hand.
"I'm excited and it's something I can continue to improve on," said Ms. Hernandez, who plans to pursue shooting as a hobby.
The 17 graduates of the pilot program will be looking for careers in law enforcement. The program provides up to 300 more credit hours than the typical police academy, and Ken Jones, the course director, said it is already preparing for its next group of students.
"We learned a lot for next time as far as what to do and what not to do," said Mr. Jones, who added that the next course, which begins July 31, is already 75 percent full.
Speaking at the ceremony, Class Leader Misty May fought back tears as she praised their work over the past several months.
"The thin blue line in Georgia just got a little deeper," Ms. May said.
Guest speaker Richard Muns, the retired director of public safety for the Richmond County Board of Education, reminded the students that they will be under a microscope, from the media and the public.
Mr. Muns urged them to remember their oath and to live up to the ethics their authority requires.
"You are offering all that you are as collateral," he said.
Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Augusta Technical College's Peace Officers Training Academy, contact the office at (706) 792-9044 or www.augustatech.edu. Classes start July 31.