"I always knew I wanted to help people in my career, but I wasn't sure how," she said. "As a police officer, I get to do that on a daily basis. They say when you finally realize what you want to do, and are meant to do, you know. I have never been so sure of anything in my life."
West, 20, Peru, has a jump-start on that career, as an IU Kokomo police cadet.
She works 12 to 20 hours each week, answering emergency calls, writing parking tickets, unlocking cars, and providing security at campus events, among other duties.
This is the second year IU Kokomo has had cadets. The first two, Andrew Doran and Eddy Chapa, recently graduated from the IU Police Academy, and will serve the campus as police officers this year. West, the campus's first female cadet, will earn 12 credit hours by completing the academy during summer 2014.
IU Kokomo Police Chief Jerry Williams said serving as a cadet gives the criminal justice students an advantage when they graduate, because they've already completed the police academy and will be ready to work immediately.
"This program is a home run, not only for the IU Police Department, but for cadets and other police departments across the country," Williams said. "They help the police department by being an extra set of eyes and ears on campus, while earning money for college, and learning the skills of the trade to succeed in law enforcement. They will graduate with a degree, two years of experience, and the academy behind them. The cadets will be sought after by police departments because they can begin work immediately, without that department having to pay to send them to the academy."
As a former member of the IU Kokomo volleyball team, West is prepared for the physical requirements of police work.
"I was a college athlete for two years," she said. "I'm physically active every day, and I train hard. I'm excited about the new wellness and fitness center, so I can work out on campus."
She said it was a hard decision to leave her team for this job, but was ultimately the right one for her future.
"I know being a cadet will prepare me to be the best police officer I can be in the future," she said. "What the cadet program offers to students is really unbeatable. This really is my future, starting here and now. "
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.