By Jordan Beach
Reinhardt University continues to celebrate the success of its graduates with a new set of law enforcement officers ready to take on their field of duty.
On Wednesday, May 29, Reinhardt University’s Public Safety Institute graduated the Reinhardt Police Academy’s Class of 19-001. Fellow Reinhardt alumus Sgt. Michael R. Bennett ‘19 of Clayton Police Department addressed the six graduates, speaking from personal experience to prepare their hearts and minds for their work ahead.
“We are here to celebrate the end of a chapter with these graduates,” said the former U.S. Marine. “These new officers have endured long hours of studying, many difficult obstacles and various sacrifices to reach this day.”
Two students in particular spent many hours studying as they worked toward their degrees alongside their time with the RU Police Academy. Earlier this month, Diana Pettus earned an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice and Michelle Donnelly earned a Bachelor of Science in Sociology.
Pettus, who raised five children and spent 24 years as a hairdresser, changed career goals and is now working toward being employed for the GBI as a financial investigator. Throughout the challenges of the academy, there were times when she questioned her abilities, but ultimately allowed God to lead her through.
“With the grace of God leading me into the path He has chosen for me, I knew anything was possible,” said Pettus. “You see, He puts obstacles in our way at different times in our lives to see how we will react. He also strategically places individuals in our lives to help and teach us about this path we call life. If we pay close attention, you can see and hear Him guiding you.”
Donnelly, the youngest in her class of six, heard good reviews of Reinhardt’s Criminal Justice program and was eventually accepted on a golf scholarship. She described her police academy cohorts as a “small-knit group,” referring to them as family.
“I think that’s really Reinhardt, anyway—Reinhardt’s community is very family-oriented,” she said. “The togetherness is great.”
After graduating in May, Donnelly accepted a position with Agnes Scott College Police, a position she views as a stepping stone for the start to her career. She hopes to see the academy’s program grow and is grateful for the hard work of Public Safety Institute Director Trey Drawdy.
“I want to give thanks to our director, Trey Drawdy, he does a lot of root work and runs a bunch of different programs and he also runs the academy, and I know that can be a really tough job,” said Donnelly. “That’s who you want to go to if you ever become interested.”
Continuing his address, Bennett marked the graduation as a significant point in the future officers’ lives.
“Mark Twain said that the two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. This day marks the moment in your life where you begin to understand your purpose, your place and your legacy.”
For one graduate, the call to law enforcement has been a long-standing tradition. Chad Ball, with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office,was recognized for becoming the fourth-generation law enforcement officer in his family, with his father, Cherokee Chief Deputy Ken Ball, present to be recognized alongside him.
Bennett challenged the graduates to rise above complacency on days that feel less significant by striving to better themselves every day, encouraging them to continue learning and growing in every area of their lives.
“Your career should be filled with hours and hours of training and learning for the preparation of the moment that might not last for more than a few seconds but that can impact your life forever.”
Congratulations to Class 19-001!
James Chadwick Ball, Cherokee Sheriff’s Office
Michelle Allison Donnelly, Agnes Scott College Police
Albert Chiwoo Kong, Alpharetta Department Public Saftey
Diana Lee Pettus
Lucas A. Pinto, Cherokee Sheriff’s Office
Patrick Allan Riley