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JEFFERSON CITY — The end of 2016 marked a new beginning for 39 men and women from all around the state.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s 103rd Recruit Class graduated from the Law Enforcement Academy on Friday. Michael Soriano, a former sheriff’s deputy from Illinois, began training at the academy alongside his fellow recruits in July.

“We’re so excited to finally be able to say we’re troopers now along with the rest of the troopers in the state,” Soriano said.

During the ceremony, the graduates took an oath of office and received their associate degrees. Gov. Jay Nixon gave the keynote address. 

“Most of the people you serve will never know your name or understand all that you do or the sacrifices that you make on their behalf,” Nixon said. “And yet you’re willing to take a solid oath to serve and protect each and every one of them.”

The ceremony was the last Nixon will attend as governor. Near the end of the event, the patrol awarded Nixon with a trooper hat and special plaque. 

“Certainly governors, of course, are very important to our organization. Again, the support that we have received from Governor Nixon has been very critical to the success of our organization,” said Captain John Hotz, the patrol’s director of public information and education.

Robert Carter Jr. knew he wanted to go into law enforcement as a child after completing a cadet program ran by a local police officer in Kansas City, Kansas. He said he’s ready for the next phase of his training.

“I really don’t know what to expect. It’s supposed to be fun and exciting. And it’s supposed to be hard and difficult,” Carter said. “But I think it’s some of the best training that we’re going to get.”

The new troopers will report for field training on January 17.