LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — The bright young faces of new law enforcement are on their way to all corners of Acadiana. Thursday, the Acadiana Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA) graduated their 167th class. News 10 spoke to some of the graduates about what drove them to the badge.

The 20 graduates spent the past 15 weeks together testing their minds and bodies to their limits. Now, they are spreading from Mamou to Palmetto Island State Park, and beyond.

“I just feel like this is calling,” Kristoffer Concepcion, ALETA graduate for Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office (LPSO) and the top of his class, told News 10.

A packed crowd stood behind him and his fellow new wearers of the star and shield. To family and friends, they’re deputies and officers of the law. To each other, they’re brothers and sisters.

Concepcion stated, “I believe in them. I trust them with my life. We had the best training.”

Class President Adam Arnold and fellow ALETA graduate for LPSO added in his speech, “We learned you don’t get to pick your team when there is a cry for help. Whoever shows up, that’s your team.”

Some of the graduates have long known protecting and serving is what they want to do.

“I went to school for it. I always wanted to help. I love detective work. It’s something I always dreamed about doing,” Destiny Broussard, ALETA graduate for Opelousas Police Department (OPD) said.

Others like Concepcion only made the commitment a couple of years ago, switching careers when much of the world was protesting police.

“When I worked at the hospital at one point, I felt like I needed to do something more,” Concepcion admitted. “Being that I knew that I had a better physical aspect than the average person, especially with my interest in firearms and training, I believed that I could do more by joining law enforcement.”

Several agency heads admit it is a welcome sight to see empty positions filled. Opelousas Police Chief Martin McLendon is welcoming two graduates to his force.

“For the last three and half years, we have worked extensively to try to get people to try and become police officers in Opelousas, and most importantly I have worked hard to make sure that the police officers that are hired live among the people that they police,” McLendon said. “Both of these ladies live in the Opelousas area; therefore, they can form relationships, build a relationship with our community, get to know people, and it will better help them to police our community.”

That is the goal of each agency head for its newest recruits

“Somebody has to be the one to step forward and protect everybody, and I’m ready to serve my community,” said Cameron Cormier, ALETA graduate for Lafayette Police Department (LPD).

“I’ll make sure I do my best and make everybody satisfied,” Shakira Williams, ALETA graduate for OPD added.

This graduation is Phase One of the training, according to Chief McLendon. Starting Monday morning, they will be training in the field with another officer, which can take up to a year before they are responding to calls alone.