Keyara Nolen could be settling into her first semester at Suffolk University, but the chance to become a Boston police cadet was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
“This is where I’m from and I want to give back to my community and make a difference,” said the 18-year-old Nolen, who plans to resume her studies in the spring.
Nolen, of Dorchester, was among 42 aspiring police officers sworn in Wednesday as Boston police cadets, making them the first class to embark on the two-year training program since 2009.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Police Commissioner William B. Evans revitalized the program last year as a way to get more people of color and women to apply for jobs as city police officers in a department where 60 percent of officers are white men.
The class enrolled 31 minorities — 20 African-Americans, nine Hispanics, and two Asians, said Lieutenant Detective Michael McCarthy, a police spokesman. Fifteen cadets are women, he said.
“We want to make sure we’re getting young city kids right out of the school system,” Evans said after swearing-in the cadets during a ceremony at the Boston Police Academy in Hyde Park. “We really want to reflect the diversity of the city.”
Cadets must be between the ages of 18 and 24 and must have lived in Boston for the last five years, the city said. They also must be US citizens and have a valid Massachusetts driver’s license.
McCarthy said the group was selected from a pool of 351 applicants who took the police cadet program exam a year ago. More than 60 percent of the test takers were minorities, the city has said.
Applicants also participated in interviews, submitted references, and underwent psychological and drug testing, police officials said. The candidates were then ranked as low, medium, or high risk with preference going to applicants classified as low risk, Evans said.
“Every single one of these ... new cadets, they’re from neighborhoods in our city,” Walsh said. “When they actually become police officers and go into the class, it gives them the advantage to understand what the job is all about and what the streets are all about.”
The cadets started Monday and will undergo several weeks of training before getting their assignments, police said. They’re paid $467 weekly and their jobs may include taking reports, running errands, answering phones, and traffic duty, the department said.
Once cadets complete the program, they are eligible to be considered for a job as Boston police officers, getting preference over candidates who don’t have the same experience, McCarthy said.
Evans, police Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross, and Superintendent Lisa Holmes, who commands the department’s Bureau of Professional Development, are among the former cadets on the force.
Holmes said she probably never would have become an officer if she hadn’t been a cadet first.
“Growing up in Roxbury, police weren’t the things that young black people wanted to aspire to be,” she said. “But joining the police department showed me that police officers were good people, that they all had families, and that they were just like my family.”
Cadet Naweed Hassan, 18, of Brighton, said he hopes to become the first officer of Pakistani descent to join Boston police.
“When I look at cops, I see a lot them are ... white and I’m a minority so I knew that I probably didn’t have the best chance to get on the job,” Hassan said. “When I heard about the cadets, I knew that cadets was my opportunity ... so I made it my mission to get on this job.”Laura Crimaldi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.