Cadet Kadi Griess, 25, received several standing ovations at Saturday's graduation of the Napa Valley College Criminal Justice Training Center's 105th Police Academy class.
Long after other graduates of the Napa Valley College Criminal Justice Training Center had scattered, Griess was surrounded by hordes of family, friends and law enforcement officers who waited patiently for photographs.
Griess, who was elected class president by her peers, found the attention overwhelming. She wanted the focus to be on the entire group -- after all, the 12-member class was particularly adept, training center director Damien Sandoval said.
Toward the beginning of the ceremony, Sandoval held a moment of silence for fallen officers. He gave Kirk a special nod and later thanked him for his "tremendous sacrifice."
It was an emotional day for Griess.
"It was just overwhelming looking in the crowd and not seeing my dad," Griess said. "I know he was here with me in my heart."
Griess, a Fairfield resident, said the impact her father made on the community influenced her decision to join law enforcement, despite his best efforts to convince her to join CHP.
Griess had served for more than a year as a Fairfield Police Department community service officer when she realized she wanted to become a police officer.
"It was kind of non-dangerous work," she said. "And then I said, 'You know what ... (becoming a police officer) is probably what's meant for me."
She said she was grateful for community support after her father's death, which occurred in the home stretch of the 22-week program.
Griess, lauded by Sandoval for her tenacity, returned to the academy just a week after her father's death.
"Somehow, the academy supported me through that and was able to help me put my head on straight, and just push through what I had to get through," she said.
Fittingly, resilience was the theme of Griess's class address. The class learned to work as a team from the beginning, she said, with an eye toward changing the world by protecting and serving the community.
"Individually, and as a class, we struggled along the way," Griess said. "We lost some classmates … endured long nights, but overall we remained resilient."
Director Sandoval said he was impressed by Griess's grit and determination, her ability to manage her emotions and achieve her goal.
He spoke of the outpouring of love and support Griess received from the law enforcement community after her father's passing.
"You don't go down in this profession without having a lot of family around you," he said.
For just a moment, Griess can catch her breath. On Monday, she starts training to become a Fairfield Police Department officer.