Chicago Police and Firefighter Training Academy (CPFTA) is a 2-year after school program that allows you to train at the Chicago Police and Fire Academies for a future career in law, public safety, fire science and more while earning school credit.
As an 11th grade cadet you are introduced to basic law enforcement, public safety, and fire science with an emphasis in urban policing and urban firefighting.
Your next year in the program, as a 12th grader, you learn about topics such as infectious disease control, high-rise firefighting, arson investigations, flashovers, back draft fires, fire tetrahedron, and effects of fire on various structures, and final physical training test.
You may also choose to apply to learn about pre-hospital emergency medical care, ambulance service, and all aspects of being an Emergency Medical Technician.
MALE SPEAKER: Our students apply for the program in their sophomore year of high school. If accepted they start in their junior year where they continue in their senior year. And basically the kids come here for two hours, three days a week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and they do criminal justice courses and hands on activities with trained police officers.
MALE SPEAKER: We’re teaching them how to use the baton ah, this is to defuse ah, the ah, points that a individual could harm you.
MALE SPEAKER: We go into police procedures, use of force ah, with the students meaning when, where can police officers ah, ah, put hands on um, individuals under different circumstances.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Any high school sophomore that lives in the City of Chicago interested in becoming a police officer, firefighter, maybe they are interested in public safety, becoming a paramedic um, can apply to the program on our website at www.cpfta.com. There is no paper application, all high school sophomores interested in the program must go online to apply. The program is available to all public and private high school sophomores who live in the City of Chicago.
Some of the requirements in addition to applying to the program online is students must have a 2.0 GPA, ninety-five percent attendance. They must submit two letters of recommendation, a current physical within the last twelve months and a copy of a state ID or a driver’s license. Once all those documents are submitted the last piece of that process is that they must go through a background check, fingerprinting and a urine analysis conducted by the Chicago Police Department.
MALE SPEAKER: I looked at flyers around the school, they were posted around and I decided to checkout the orientation.
MALE SPEAKER: My father is a police officer and um, he was, he sat me down one night telling me about the program.
FEMALE SPEAKER: My division teacher because I told her I wanted to be a cop.
MALE SPEAKER: I actually wanted to be a police officer, it was one of my dreams. So, when I heard about it ah, sophomore year I signed up and I love it here.
FEMALE SPEAKER: I used to watch a lot of Law and Order shows and decided I wanted to be a detective when I was younger. So, I saw the letter on the table, my grandmother’s like it’s for police and they could help you become a detective.
MALE SPEAKER: When I went -- meet the people um, Dr. Pepper is officer Chester (phonetic) I got more interested in the program so that’s what made me want to pursue it.
FEMALE SPEAKER: I am interested in going into the medical field which for this program is the EMT program.
FEMALE SPEAKER: They learn the rules and regs of the department, the do’s and the don’ts, camaraderie. They’re going to learn teamwork, they’re going to learn discipline, okay? They going to learn PT, they going to learn criminal justice.
MALE SPEAKER: The reason I joined the CPFTA program is because I really want to do everything possible ah, to improve my chances of becoming a Chicago Police Officer to gain a leg up and to help myself against the competition. For example, we did ah, traffic stop where we had to ah, yell out commands to a suspect.
MALE SPEAKER: (Inaudible), I want your right hand and shut the vehicle off.
MALE SPEAKER: I want you to take one more step backward.
MALE SPEAKER: Take control of the situation because this a high risk stop, we don’t know what we have there but we do know it’s a stolen vehicle, anything can happen, you want to protect yourselves. Got it?
FEMALE SPEAKER: They gave us different scenarios and we had to just act like police officers in any situation as if it was real. It was very exciting, we got to do the search and when I went the officer, the person that I searched actually had drugs on them so I had to arrest the person.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Check his waistband.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Any weapons sir?
FEMALE SPEAKER: Once you put him under --
MALE SPEAKER: No.
FEMALE SPEAKER: -- arrest, now you can do a full blown custodial search. And that’s a more in depth search.
MALE SPEAKER: (Male speaking in background.)
FEMALE SPEAKER: So, that means in the pockets, you know you’re not just looking for weapons at that point, you’re looking for weapons in (inaudible).
MALE SPEAKER: All right we don’t, we shouldn’t be searching at the same time.
FEMALE SPEAKER: But good job.
MALE SPEAKER: Good job though, great job.
MALE SPEAKER: We did a search warrant in a ah, across the street from the police academy and all that stuff was really fun for me and really gained, let me gain some insight into how, how hard this job actually is and what I can do to improve myself ah, for this job.
FEMALE SPEAKER: We are looking for students who want to make a change in their lives. Who can commit to two years of the program, it is a big commitment, it is two full years of the program including summers. There is a piece in the summer for six weeks ah, where they participate in the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program four days a week for six weeks. And as a matter of fact it’s a paid internship.
MALE SPEAKER: Students come into this program because either they want to do some sort of public service or they’re just interested in the careers and they get an opportunity to see from a layman’s point what a police officer does in a day as well as a firefighter and/or paramedic.
MALE SPEAKER: Anybody starts to act up we’re taking them down quick and getting them out of there quick. Got it?
GROUP: Yes, sir.
MALE SPEAKER: Any questions?
GROUP: No, sir.
MALE SPEAKER: Let’s do this.
MALE SPEAKER: Spread out, let’s go (inaudible).
MALE SPEAKER: What’s you going to do? You going to (inaudible).
FEMALE SPEAKER: My dad he watched it on TV on the news and he said that I should join and that would be good for me so I did and I’m glad that he told me to.
MALE SPEAKER: My sister actually went to Taft a couple years before, before I did and I always went through her yearbook so I saw the ah, the Taft CPSFCA and the cadets and everything and I was always curious because I always wanted to be a firefighter so I always had in mind that I wanted to join it.
MALE SPEAKER: One day my, in my sophomore year towards the beginning of the year um, I finally decided on what I wanted to you know what, what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and that was to become a firefighter.
MALE SPEAKER: I thought to myself that um, I like a good challenge and this seems something that I’d be you know willing to do.
MALE SPEAKER: Since I was about I’m fifteen years old, I wanted to become a Chicago Police detective.
FEMALE SPEAKER: It looked really interesting and they help people a lot and you don’t see that often.
MALE SPEAKER: Ah, I asked my counselor, she directed me to Dr. Pappas (phonetic) which luckily he works at Taft and he helped me out through the whole process.
MALE SPEAKER: Well, my grandfather was a Chicago police officer so I wanted to be a police officer too so I decided to join the CPF today.
FEMALE SPEAKER: My mother she’s a 9-1-1 operator and my father he’s a captain on the fire department, he work on Narragansett and those two right there, (inaudible) to me to do something with my life and CPFCA is a great start.
FEMALE SPEAKER: We have Chicago police officers that teach. We also have a state trooper that teach -- okay, so some of his co-workers come and speak on topics ah, when you’re being stopped by the state troopers and what to do and what exactly does a state trooper do.
MALE SPEAKER: They spend half of the year at police academy and the other half of the year at the fire academy and at both locations they receive hands on training from ah, instructors who are part of both agencies.
MALE SPEAKER: It’s just a great program where kids get an opportunity to make themselves employable because we teach that on a daily basis about building your resume, about becoming employable. How, you know how you -- you’re not expendable when you have resources that’s in you that’s designed to help you to be the very best you can be.
MALE SPEAKER: EMS first-aid ah, first responder type things, we do a little bit with what our typical responses are which are search and rescue, salvage, fire extinguishment and ah, some hazardous materials and maybe weapons of mass of destruction classes.
MALE SPEAKER: When I thought about firefighting all I thought about was you know putting out a fire and leaving but there’s a lot more, there’s a lot more things that, that a lot of people don’t know to actual, to actually fighting fires. And the same thing with police, everybody thinks that you go to a scene and then you arrest somebody, then you take them to jail and convict them. But there’s a lot of key points and factors that you have to consider when making an arrest.
FEMALE SPEAKER: We teach them CPR and first aid um, when they come down here. From every angle that ah, of the, the anatomy that they can learn and why things happen um, to somebody’s body and all the different diseases that are out there. So, what they learn in the EMT program as they graduate with an EMT license. Junior year they apply, senior year they go to EMT school with us and they come down three days a week. And what they do learn is how to splint, CPR um, biology, the anatomy um, certain diseases ah, how to fix them as an EMT, what they can do…
MALE SPEAKER: The advantage to the course is that normally this course is offered in a college setting. Ah, the advantage to having the seniors is that we’re starting their careers out early as EMT’s. Once they become EMT’s then they take the state (inaudible) exam and become state certified then they can go for further advancement as becoming paramedics or going to the nursing career or into the path that they have chosen for.
FEMALE SPEAKER: You’re not going to get rich off it that’s for sure. But you help people and it’s very rewarding um, you feel good about yourself, that you’re doing something kind of nice for other people.
FEMALE SPEAKER: All two hundred and fifty cadets come out CPR certified, first aid certified, they go through the AED (inaudible) defibrilator certification program. A lot of the seniors will qualify and be eligible to sit in and take the EMT class and become certified EMT’s. And next year we will put in place where all cadets will be OSHA certified. Where at that point they will be more employable as a high school graduate.
MALE SPEAKER: So, with the head tucked chin what we want to do is take the palm of our hand, put it on top of patient forehead, that’s going to be your head tilt, once it’s tilted back you’re going to use your thumb and press the chin down and open up the airway.
FEMALE SPEAKER: They might come down here the first week um, and say oh, I don’t know if this is good for me. But then within a week or two or three weeks they realize that everybody down here really cares about them and we’re here because we want to be here, not because we’re forced to be here.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Miss (inaudible) she’s like a (inaudible), she explains all -- she just basically came to me and would explain to me different medicines or different things she did as a paramedic who -- toughs a -- different situations she was in life savings. I was just like so awed by that and I would ask so many questions -- it just be so in to it, always wanted to know more. And she always was there to tell me if I had a problem I could come to her and she was very understanding just like paramedics.
FEMALE SPEAKER: A lot of the girls come to me with their problems and ah, it’s nice for me to be able to mold them and mentor them into a young lady.
FEMALE SPEAKER: You see the differences in them as is -- as the program continues, they really do grow and ah, they become more disciplined. Um, physically of course they become much stronger because we work them out often.
MALE SPEAKER: Part of the curriculum here is we take you from baby steps, we educate you for a week, sometimes two weeks depending upon how far back you are or what you need to know far as for your knowledge. We cover nutrition, we cover kinesiology, we cover um, positions that we want you in. We cover all kinds of movement, slow movement, fast movements, we tell you what they’re for, we explain what the program is going to be, how we’re going to work you and conditioned, how you’re going to maintain the conditioning and it’s up to you after you get out t sustain it.
MALE SPEAKER: My favorite part of the program would probably be the physical training because I like to work out and I don’t get a lot of chances to workout at my house so three days a week at the academy is a good place to work out.
MALE SPEAKER: The workouts I plan to lose a lot, lot of weight and I think I’ve done it a little bit, I look forward to losing more weight.
FEMALE SPEAKER: It’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s entertaining and they challenge me in ways that I didn’t think they would challenge me.
MALE SPEAKER: And they get you in great physical shape with the training they have here.
MALE SPEAKER: When I come here I’m forced to workout so it helps you know, keeps you in shape and healthy.
MALE SPEAKER: Helps me physically, keeps me ah, moving on ah, it helps around school, I mean they push you.
MALE SPEAKER: Everyday we workout and I love to stay in shape and they keep me physical fit.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Me personally I wouldn’t really exercise on my own so the fact that I have somebody to push me and really do the…
MALE SPEAKER: Well, I definitely learned I could push myself a lot more than I thought I could.
MALE SPEAKER: I didn’t think the workout going to be this tough far as getting on the force and losing a lot of weight um, I thought it was going to be really, really hard, actually made through it.
MALE SPEAKER: I made it this far I’m going to keep going.
MALE SPEAKER: I think they get disciplined, I think they get structure, I think they get like a goal to be set for where they want to go and to be able to accomplish that goal because they’ve been through the program, they understand how to deal with times when there tough. They understand how to deal with things that doesn’t go their way. They understand the dedication and the sacrifice that it takes…
MALE SPEAKER: I actually do believe that I made the right choice to come to this program cuz you know I -- a lot of other teenagers my age would be doing God knows what, but you know I decided to focus my time into my future cuz you know everything you do now is just steppingstone to the rest of your life.
MALE SPEAKER: You see where, where the kids have progressed when they first get here until actually when they graduate in their two years ah, you see the progression, the -- you see the understanding, the knowledge and what this job entails.
MALE SPEAKER: The job cannot only just pay you a salary but it could mold you to be a better person.
MALE SPEAKER: Just having pride, making themselves become a viable citizen in society. Knowing that someone is willing to donate their time to help you and it’ll make them a better person to -- not (inaudible) to see what’s wrong with that person that’s stalled on the side of the road, or that old lady that needs a hand with her bags so, it teaches character, they can get character out of the program.
MALE SPEAKER: It prepares you mentally and that’s what we want to get to them, it’s a mental preparation not just for here but for life also.
MALE SPEAKER: Program is really good for building teamwork and learning how to work as a team. It’s a lot of hard work but it’ll like help you in the long run because we’re getting the same training that the real cadets get and it re-really will help you.
MALE SPEAKER: A lot of these students out there whether they’re in this program or out in the Chicago Public Schools, they don’t have the structure, they don’t have that, that ah, that drive to do better. Um, so when they come here and they see how we operate um, they enjoy that, they enjoy that structure um, and they’re able to carry that over to their schoolwork and life itself.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Like they push me and they say I can do anything if I believe myself to do it. And they’re not going to give anything for free, you got to work for what you want.
MALE SPEAKER: Being disciplined and respectful, know how to carry myself and, and to other people -- be respect to other people. I really enjoy it…
MALE SPEAKER: My neighborhood where I live at and like the surroundings while I’m in my school it’s a lot of temptations to do bad things but I chose to do the right thing and that’s what I’m trying to do by being in this program.
MALE SPEAKER: I had a young lady who expressed concerns about being a doctor and maybe a lawyer um, and we talked a little bit about how she ah, presents herself ah, to other individuals and, and choosing her friends and what her friends can get into. So, she really ah, took that to heart um, and ah, and informed me that she started making some changes in her life ah, just by the little talk that we had.
FEMALE SPEAKER: They would get a lot from it, they would like -- people -- they would grow up, they would grow up more, they will open their eyes more and change a lot because I changed a lot, I, I used to be like a child and I matured more, I saw things differently.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Over the course of the year I have changed a lot, I was able to manage my stress, my temper, my attitude changed completely.
MALE SPEAKER: But I think the biggest thing for kids is the exposure, they actually get out of their neighborhood, they, they, they don’t stay within a five mile radius of their house anymore, they get on mass transit, they get a chance to go down ah, downtown to the different academies and see what’s happening so, it’s not only the job they’re learning more about how their, their lives are going to be once they enter the work world or they start to go to college is ah, it’s not within this five mile radius anymore.
MALE SPEAKER: These students who come through have desires to join either law enforcement agencies or fire departments around the, the country. So, we want to hire them here but they have to of course be of age and go through the hiring process successfully.
MALE SPEAKER: Officer Jester, Ms. Castillo and Lt. Brown they also sat me down and told me that by being in this program, I could better myself and the situation I’m in right now.
MALE SPEAKER: What we’re doing is preparing these kids for real life situations and we want them to know that when they walk in the door school is behind them and now this learning process started in job shadowing in these careers. So -- because what we practice is what we do so if we get them in the habit of coming in and being prepared to go to work immediately we can then produce a better product.
FEMALE SPEAKER: CPFTA started in 1999 as a joint venture with the Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Fire Department and City Colleges of Chicago. We have graduated over fifteen hundred cadets in the last ten years. We have students from over sixty-seven high schools, public and private. Um, this year will be our largest graduating class which is a hundred and five students in the last eleven years.
FEMALE SPEAKER: And we say it is important for young people to see this as a viable occupation, and exciting career.
MALE SPEAKER: And I wasn’t really interested in be-being a police officer or a firefighter before this program but now I’m definitely interested.
MALE SPEAKER: What I love most about the program is that we gain a hands on experience that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to get um, in high school or not being in this program.
MALE SPEAKER: I think it’s a very good career, it’s an excellent career. And you know you hear so many people often times say you know well I like to give and I like to give back, it’s much deeper than that because you have an obligation not just with yourself but for your family also. You’re looked up to as a role model whether you accept it or not.
FEMALE SPEAKER: We’re given everyone an opportunity to participate in this kind of career and to expose these young people and that’s really what many of these kids just don’t know what they don’t know. And when you don’t know the only way you do learn is to be exposed.
MALE SPEAKER: Cadets are working now in different capacities, some are working for private ambulance companies, some are in the military, we have a few who have joined the Chicago Police Department and we have students who are also part of the Chicago Police ah, cadet program which is a program for college students who want to work for the Chicago Police Department and we have several students who went through this program who are now part of that program, waiting to take the next upcoming police exam.
FEMALE SPEAKER: One of the activities in this ah, program is to expose young people to whether the police route is the route for them or the fire route is the route for them or emergency medical um, ah, technicians. You know the first responders to a crisis, you know those are the kinds of programs that we provide training for and those are the kinds of ah, programs that we want our young people in the communities to strive for.
MALE SPEAKER: You always want to build that resume so whatever jobs you goes into that -- it’ll look good for others. It don’t matter like if you go into being a firefighter or a policeman but this program it’ll help you -- it builds self character, self discipline, you need that because in this program you work with a lot of different people, it -- you never worked with before.
MALE SPEAKER: I’ve learned to be more patient in a way because you, you get to learn, you get work with other people and you know you get -- you have to you know wait for things and you have to -- you learn how to be more of a leader.
FEMALE SPEAKER: It’s most rewarding is to see the students succeed. Okay, they come in this program when they’re junior, fifteen, sixteen years old. When they graduate they’re eighteen, some might be nineteen years old. To see the growth in them and to see what they have learned and what we have instilled with them and again to see after they get out of the program to see ‘em working, being productive ah, that’s very rewarding, that’s the best part of my job.
MALE SPEAKER: Yes, some of them are ah, relatives or friends of policeman and fireman and they kind of have an idea of what the program is. But um, for seventeen and eighteen year old and sixteen year old kids who come here and dedicate two years into a program um, that is the success of the program, we’ve got some great kids ah, I absolutely love working with them and to help them -- they’re at a critical point in their life and to help them make the right choices as they prepare for college or adult life um, is a phenomenal thing, that’s a great reward for me.
MALE SPEAKER: When I was a freshman and sophomore I used to be you know hanging out, hanging or doing bad things but now I see like being good and you know doing well is something that I need to start doing as a junior now because obviously going to -- I’m growing up and you know I’m, I’m young adult and I has to start doing -- you know working on my life and what I want to be when I grow up.
MALE SPEAKER: To put yourself ah, in the service of others is just very honorable ah, very humble position to be in. Um, so I tell them that they -- that, that’s what they, they want to do to go ahead and ah, do the best they can ah, and, and, and ah, join our program.
FEMALE SPEAKER: I want to give back to my community, I want the world to know that good can come out of a bad environment. And I’m from very, very bad neighborhood.
MALE SPEAKER: It is not for everyone, you have to have it in your hearts of hearts to want to come and take care of someone.
MALE SPEAKER: They have to have a passion for it because if they don’t it’s just going to be a job. But a career like this um, when you love what you do and you get to do it everyday um, you never have to work, you never go to work um, it’s a great career. I, I, I’ve said it a million times it -- that if you have to work this is like winning the lottery of jobs.
MALE SPEAKER: I enjoy the fact and satisfaction of helping individuals out there and the joy of helping the unknown individual out there with their -- what they may constitute as being an emergency.
MALE SPEAKER: It’s a cut above the rest of the careers in life. Anything you do in your public service that means your heart is in the right place because you truly want to help someone. So, by all means I, I even encourage it a lot of times.
MALE SPEAKER: I want a job where you don’t know what’s going to happen, you know where your -- where you’re actually satisfied of what you do.
MALE SPEAKER: I take this job as a, as a new adventure every single day. Ah, I’ve always thought that I saw it all and there is no such thing as seeing it. People do not realize that the City of Chicago runs twenty-four hours a day and people don’t sleep twenty-four hours a day.
MALE SPEAKER: Yeah, I just don’t want that ah, everyday -- same thing everyday routine, it’s boring to me.
MALE SPEAKER: I actually didn’t think about being a fireman at first but then when I came to the program it just like -- things that, that you learn to do, get that sense of (inaudible) and you know you get to just live a little different than the average person. This program gives you the edge to be able to do it because you’re (inaudible), everybody connected within the program.
MALE SPEAKER: This is just a great opportunity for the kids to see hands on exactly what the Chicago fireman do.
MALE SPEAKER: You, you formulate other families when you come on this job. It’s not like a nine to five where you see people sometimes and they go home but you spend a third of your life with people on this job so, it’s like a big family reunion everyday.
MALE SPEAKER: It’s a sense of community from CPFTA I -- they always talk about that same sense of community in the police and fire, that’s something I like, I like networking, I like meeting new people.
MALE SPEAKER: It’s the best thing you can do if you want to join -- you want to be a fireman or a policeman, like hands down the best program to join because there’s, there’s no other program that will give you this much you know feedback and things to expect from the fire or police academy.
MALE SPEAKER: And the thing I want to stress to you is your decision, it’s your chance to make a decision about whether you’re coming to this program -- I want to encourage you, try it, do it, you will not regret it because we all one decision away from a lot of things, this is one decision that you’ll make that you’ll look back and say I am so glad I did it. So, I just thank you right now in advance and I look forward to you being a part of this program.
MALE SPEAKER: So far it’s been amazing, a great experience ah, I’ve learned a lot, matured a lot also. And it’s also helping me you know get -- find a way to college which I would be the first in my family to graduate from high school and also advance to college so, that’ll be a great thing.
MALE SPEAKER: I’m going to get a degree in nursing, a mass -- like a degree in nursing so that way if I become a fireman I could be also a part-time nurse on the weekends and you know EMT.
MALE SPEAKER: After I graduate from college hopefully one day might become FBI agent or join the police force and work my way up to becoming detective or someday a lieutenant.
FEMALE SPEAKER: I’ve also realized that I want to be a paramedic, it help me find what I really wanted to be in life. It wasn’t a detective, my childhood fantasy, but when I came here I realized then paramedic was where I really wanted to be.
FEMALE SPEAKER: I want to join the program because my choice in field of work is a forensic scientist or a crime scene analyst and I thought that I might learn something from the police side when going into that type of work.
FEMALE SPEAKER: I want to go into law school, I want to study criminal justice, it’s so much violence going on and where I -- I want to get in and help -- to stop so much violence -- that put people away that should be in jail.
MALE SPEAKER: And my plans are to complete the program in June as intended and after I complete the program I’m going to complete my associates degree at Wright Junior College and after I do that I’m going to sign up for the police academy and hopefully become a Chicago police officer.
MALE SPEAKER: I don’t want the future to go through what I went through in high school and my neighborhood and I don’t want my little brothers and sisters to grow up in what I grew up with, the fighting and the violence and walking home everyday have to watch your back. So, by me becoming a police officer I will better my community and hopefully the City of Chicago and just do my part in helping country become a better place.
Successful completion of the CPFTA high school portion of the program with at least a B grade average guarantees CPFTA cadets a scholarship to any City College of Chicago (this is a one-year last dollar tuition waiver).
Students have the opportunity to participate in a paid summer internship between junior and senior year.
Any high school sophomore living in the City of Chicago interested in applying to CPFTA is asked to meet the following requirements: