Walker was recently rewarded for her work with the program. She received the Missouri DARE officer of the year award Aug. 4.
"I was shocked," Walker said. "Mainly because no other officer in Southeast Missouri has ever won that award, and no one who has only worked for such a short time in the program has won it. That award is usually reserved for veteran officers."
Now in its 20th year, the Missouri DARE officer of the year is an award given by peers to outstanding DARE officers in a community. Officers are nominated and then voted on by members of the Missouri DARE officers' association.
Brent Forgey, outgoing president of the Missouri DARE Officers' Association, said DARE officer of the year winners must demonstrate a desire to make a difference in their communities through work in multiple organizations.
"An ideal candidate is someone who is extremely dedicated and busy," Forgey said. "Someone who is working on several other community projects at once. They also have to care about children's futures and have a strong desire to teach and influence them in a positive way. A lot of our award recipients are parents, but also have a life as a DARE officer."
Walker fits that description. In addition to DARE, she works with multiple community organizations, including United Way, Boys & Girls Club, Take Me Home program, Autism Clinic and Special Olympics.
Walker also volunteers as the DARE officer at Nell Holcomb grade school, which was forced to terminate its DARE program due to recent budget cuts.
Walker said her drive to volunteer in the community is a result of her experiences as a child.
The daughter of a former drug dealer and gang member, Walker lost her father when she was just 17 years old. He was murdered.
"I vowed then to do everything I could to prevent anyone else from going through that," Walker said. "I became a police officer and wanted to work with DARE so I could share my experiences with kids so they could learn from them. I always teach my students that it doesn't matter where you come from. You don't have to choose that path. As horrible as those experiences were for me, they made me a better person and police officer. Good people sometimes make bad decisions. But showing kids that success can come out of bad situations, that's my drive."
Although she no longer serves as Cape Girardeau's DARE officer, Walker continues her work with the program as the volunteer officer at Nell Holcomb and as the incoming president of the Missouri DARE Officers' Association. Patrolman Luther Bonds will take Walker's place as DARE officer when school starts in the fall.
"When I left, I told my kids that even though they wouldn't be seeing me in the classroom any more, they'll still see me on the streets watching out for them. I'm still there," Walker said.
40 South Sprigg Street, Cape Girardeau