Chicago training academy molds future first responders


CHICAGO — The Chicago Police and Firefighter Training Academy is about career development and being ahead of the curve – a hands-on, up close, and personal program for students interested in public safety, law enforcement, criminal justice, and fire science.

Inysse Tyler, a senior at CPS’ Lance Tech, said she is interested in a career exploring and believes a job in civic duty is significant.  

“I am pretty surprised about how hands-on the program actually is,” she said. “I didn’t expect to get the opportunity to shoot water out of the hose. It’s been amazing and learning about police tactics. It’s all been very interesting. My favorite part, personally, is all the exercise that we do. I love the workouts.” 

Workouts include climbing a fire truck or opening a closed door at the fire academy. At the police academy, a workout of the brain as students attends several classes. 

So, how does it work? Chicago residents who meet specific eligibility requirements may participate in the two-year program, beginning their junior year in high school. There is a limit of 125 public and non-public high schoolers at a time. Students meet mostly two times a week except those in the EMT program, who meet three times a week.  

Armando Rodriguez is CPS’ Deputy Chief of College and Careers. 

“It comes with certifications such as EMT. [Participants] also get college credits, OSHA certifications, and other certifications around, so they come out with a lot of different opportunities. Plus, they also have internships in the summertime,” Rodriquez said.  

“This program is the foundation for understanding what it is to be a firefighter and what it is to become an EMT,” added Aref Abdellatif, who leads the CFD side of the academy. “We want them to step out of their comfort zone and become adults and leaders.” 

Mariah Esters, a 16-year-old junior at George Washington High School, says she has family in the city’s fire and police departments, which motivated her to follow their lead. 

“I looked up to them all the time, so it kind of lifted me up,” she said.  

CFTRPA creates a better understanding between today’s teens and first responders.  

“I wanted to get interested and active in law enforcement, 

Iyndai Coleman, 17, attends the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. His involvement in CFTRPA stems from an interest in law enforcement.  

“Through this program, there’s proof that not all cops are bad and you actually understand their job,” he said.  

The educational experience also aims to create better relations at home. 

Zechariah Rodriquez, a 17-year-old homeschooler whose father is a firefighter, says he was indifferent about the call to service.  

‘Then I started to see all the things that he’s doing and all the people that he’s helping,” Rodriquez said. “I just wanted to be just like him.” 

CFTRPA is free for any participant. Applications open up sophomore year.  

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