NEW YORK (CNN) -- Among the New York Police Academy's new graduates is Long Island native Cheryl Walter.
Harvard University alum Cheryl Walter is a new member of the NYPD.
Walter, the class valedictorian, not only holds the best combined academic and physical scores among the cadets; she is also a Harvard University graduate with a master's degree in forensic psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
With those credentials, Water said, many others, including her parents, expected her to join the FBI.
"Once I moved to the city after graduating college, I got to know some police officers in the NYPD, and I just fell in love with the city, I fell in love with the officers, with the camaraderie and the opportunity," Water said.
She said she was drawn to public service as a teenager, when she would watch then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "I just loved her story and the fact that she held such a position of power as a female," Walter said. "I considered the careers such as being a veterinarian and ... the military, all over the place, but throughout, I always wanted to enter law enforcement. It's just a field I find very interesting."
Interesting or not, it isn't always easy to be a police officer in New York. The starting salaries are about $25,000 a year, and New York Commissioner Ray Kelly says about 16 percent of the academy's cadets drop out, in part because they can't make ends meet. In addition, there's the stress of the job.
"It is a challenge to make it in New York City on the starting salary," she said. "But I knew what I was getting into when I entered this field. I like working with people, I like going on the street, not knowing what's going to come up, and, you know, trying to do a little bit of good ...
"I'm just doing what I want to do and what I love to do."
In her first month as a part of "Operation Impact," a program that floods high-crime areas with police officers, she's made six arrests. The charges ranged from marijuana possession to auto stripping to a suspended driver's license.
"I want to learn as much as I can within the first year," Walter said of her Bronx-based job. "That's why I picked a busy command."
She added, "I love it, I'm having really good time."
"I'm just doing what I want to do and what I love to do." E-mail to a friend
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