Three months ago at 4:34 a.m., dozens of cadets woke to lights and yells of command staff. They bolted from their beds, shaking off fatigue before dressing to start the first day of Minnesota State Patrol training academy. That wake-up call launched weeks of training on crash investigations, law, mental health crises and de-escalation.

Family and friends celebrated those hours spent training in the heat and snow, and sometimes underwater, during Friday's graduation ceremony for the patrol's 68th and 69th training academies.

Hundreds gathered at the University of Minnesota's Ted Mann Concert Hall for the ceremony where historic state patrol squad cars were stationed near the entrance. Family members clapped and yelled in support. Some brought flowers and pompoms to cheer. And when troopers in burgundy uniforms filed into the hall, the crowd hushed to a silence broken only by the click of black polished boots and a baby's cry.

Many of the 35 cadets represent diverse backgrounds. Cadet Yahya Abdi grew up in Somalia before fleeing civil war there, traveling through multiple countries to reach safety. Anthony St. Clair Jr. represents the White Earth Nation and worked as a highway safety officer for the White Earth Tribal Police. And Moo Eh Moo hails from a Thailand refugee camp near Burma where his family was forced to flee.

The class heard words from Christina Bogojevic, the patrol's interim colonel who was named the department's new chief last week, the second woman ever picked for the role. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan praised Bogojevic and members of the class for representing Minnesotans in an often thankless job.

"This group with diverse backgrounds, experiences and families and cultures is Minnesota. And when the people who look like Minnesota serve Minnesota, we all do better," Flanagan said. "Enjoy your moment. Celebrate with your loved ones before taking the next steps of your training. We are all rooting for you."

The cadets will next train with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension before launching field training. They begin solo patrols July 24.

Cadets marched across the stage to receive their badges. Mothers and fathers, daughters and sons pinned the trooper shield on cadets' uniforms.

Many of the cadets changed careers for policing, while others bring military experience to the field.

"That shield that you have earned is a badge of honor that signifies you are not simply a law enforcement officer. You are a trooper for the Minnesota State Patrol. You earned that shield by overcoming hard work, including academic and physical challenges," Department of Public Safety Commissioner Bob Jacobson said. "Remember that today is a profound moment, one that I hope you will remember fondly for the rest of your life. This work, this profession, is an honorable one. And we are all very proud to share this moment with you."

Recent years have proven especially dangerous for law enforcement in Minnesota and elsewhere. Data analysis by the Star Tribune found reports of assaults against police are up 160% from a decade ago.

An hours-long standoff in Burnsville resulted in a gunman killing two officers and a paramedic in February. A Ramsey County Deputy suffered minor injuries after someone shot at them with an AR-style rifle in March.

In April 2023, Pope County Sheriff Deputy Josh Owen was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call. At least six other officers were shot and killed in North Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa that year.

Amid such worries, graduating cadet Ryan Geiser said support from others will make a difference. Geiser served in the Marine Corps as a military police officer in Japan. He shared similar experiences with cadets at the training academy, but said their camaraderie will follow the rest of his career.

"At the end of this, I'll have friends for the rest of my life. No matter what, if I call them they're going to be there for me," Geiser said. "This isn't a career for everyone. But if you want to actually try it out, go for a ride-along. Talk to someone in your community ... it's going to be a really successful and rewarding career for people."