(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Sam Dunbar graduated from Pikes Peak State’s Law Enforcement Academy Thursday evening, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.

“The Academy is definitely very vigorous, and it’s a long process,” Dunbar said. “I mean, we’re here like about 60-70 hours a week, some weeks six days a week. You know, it makes you question your ability and if you’re wanting to do this. But, you know, once you get to the end and you pass the test and you get certified, it’s super rewarding and it’s a pretty crazy feeling for sure.”

There’s a greater meaning behind why Dunbar felt called to service.

On the day of the shooting, Officer Eric Talley ran into the grocery store saving many lives before being shot by the suspect. At the time, Dunbar was finishing up real estate school but changed careers to become an officer after hearing of the fearless actions of Talley.

“I was sitting on my mom’s kitchen counter, and the news was on talking about the shooting,” Dunbar said. “And then Officer Eric Talley, of course, was killed, and it just kind of flipped inside of me. And I had a calling to, I guess, to just change careers and do this because this is what felt right.”

Dunbar and his fiancé Maddy Persons on stage

Local law enforcement, friends, and family members filled the auditorium to see 10 new cadets graduate from the academy.

“Policing is not an easy job and sometimes it is a thankless profession,” Chief of Woodland Park Police Department, Chris Deisler said. “But we know that there are people in the community who endear themselves for the work we do, who love to see officers in the neighborhoods interacting with them. And whenever you get a group of folks, especially like these folks, who are graduating tonight who want to do this job for the right reasons, that’s a win all the way around.”

Also in attendance was the widow of Talley and a small group from the Boulder Police Department who presented Dunbar with a challenge coin.

“We’re getting rewarded by our career and that’s something a lot of people, I think, don’t get to say,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar has been hired to protect the community by working for the Woodland Park Police Department.

“In my 31st year of law enforcement, I can tell you I’ve seen plenty of officers funerals and they’re never fun the impacts are deep and far-reaching, and this is never a good time,” Deisler said. “But if we can take someone’s legacy and make it live through the actions of someone else who has that desire, and that drive like Sam does, I don’t know how you can call that anything but great.”

Deisler pinned Dunbar and a second cadet Spencer Van Camp; both will be joining the Woodland Park Police Department.