Above: Class leader Mark L. Gerard, left, received the Academy’s Driving Award, and Sara Sweney received the Larkin I. Smith Award.

Twenty-nine cadets graduated on July 2 from the Harrison County Law Enforcement Academy’s Basic Class 2015-2.

The ceremony, held in the Hospitality and Resort Management Center at the Jefferson Davis Campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, included a commencement address by Joel Smith, district attorney, 2nd Circuit Court District of Mississippi. The Academy is a partnership between the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, the Mississippi Air National Guard and MGCCC.

Class Leader Mark L. Gerard, 37, retired from the Seabees on April 2 after 20 years of service, which included 14 deployments. He enrolled in the Academy on April 19. “I feel good,” said Gerard, an officer with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office. “This filled the void that was left after my retirement. I missed the camaraderie and the brotherhood.”

Gerard, an Illinois native and recipient of the Academy’s Driving Award, credits Deanna, his wife of 17 years, for being his “savior.” She attended the ceremony, along with Gerard’s mother and sister.

The 29 graduates of the Harrison County Law Enforcement Academy’s Basic Class 2015-2

Sara Sweney, 25, was a waitress in Enterprise, Alabama, before she joined the Academy. She has lived all over the United States but is now settled in Biloxi and is an officer with the Moss Point Police Department.

At the ceremony, she was presented with the Larkin I. Smith Award. “I was shocked,” Sweney said following the ceremony, which was attended by her fiancé, Ashton, and her mother, father, sister and stepmother. The award represents overall dedication to her training, from academics to fitness, but it also represents her determination to make the world a safer place. “I grew up near Chicago and saw things that I do not want my future children to see as they grow up,” she said. “To me, being part of the Academy is being part of a bigger family.”

Cadets included William T. Anderson, Ocean Springs Police Department; James M.A. Balius, Long Beach Police Department; Nathan M. Corr, Bay St. Louis Police Department; Zackary L. Couey, Gulfport Police Department; James J. Cowan, Biloxi Police Department; Jason R. Cuevas, Gulfport Police Department; Steven J. Dorick, Biloxi Police Department; Kimberly D. Echols, Mississippi Department of Corrections; Kodi S. Ezell, Moss Point Police Department; Courtney D. Favre, Veterans Administration; Matthew C. Freeman, Biloxi Police Department; Mark L. Gerard (Class Leader), Harrison County Sheriff’s Office; Jacob H. Johnson, Department of Marine Resources; Cody W. Jones, Gulfport Police Department; Timothy J.R. Landry, D’Iberville Police Department; James E. McGhee III, Moss Point Police Department; Caleb W. McQueen, Bay St. Louis Police Department; Tiffany A. Morales, Workforce Investment Network; Timothy A. Pesch, Workforce Investment Network; Utopia L. Robinson, Mississippi Gaming Commission; Dean H. Schultz II, Gulfport Police Department; Chad A. Seymour, D’Iberville Police Department; Gary C. Smith, Veterans Administration; Sara A. Sweney, Moss Point Police Department; Victor B. Tacorchick, Biloxi Police Department; Meagan S. Vasquez, Gautier Police Department; Jason M. Wells, Moss Point Police Department; Jada L. Whittington, Department of Marine Resources; and DeReginald K. Williamson, Ellisville Police Department.

Awards presented included the following:

PHYSICAL FITNESS AWARD: Dean H. Schultz II, Gulfport Police Department

FIREARMS AWARD: Cody W. Jones, Gulfport Police Department

DRIVING: Mark L. Gerard, Harrison County Sheriff’s Office

HIGHEST ACADEMIC GRADUATE: Nathan M. Corr, Bay St. Louis Police Department

LARKIN I. SMITH AWARD (Overall): Sara A. Sweney, Moss Point Police Department

FAVORITE INSTRUCTOR: Officer Tino Cunha, Biloxi Police Department

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