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Students prepare to become Chicago police officer in 1-year City Colleges program

Students prepare to become Chicago police officer in 1-year City Colleges program
Students prepare to become Chicago police officer in 1-year City Colleges program 02:22

CHICAGO (CBS) – Some students at Olive-Harvey College are on the pathway to become Chicago police officers.

They're graduating on Thursday and will soon take a rigorous test to get into the police academy. It's dangerous and certainly not easy. Some of the students spoke to CBS 2 about why they want to become police officers.

"I just knew that it was for me," said Kevin Flores. "I just knew it was something that I've always wanted to do. It was calling my name."

Flores, along with Tiffany Espinosa and Joshua Johnson, come from different parts of the city, but they all have one thing in common: a desire to become a Chicago police officer.

"I really think me being out there on those streets every day would make an impact," Johnson said.

Espinosa said, "This is the first time in my life I believe in something so intensely that I will work through whatever the challenges are."

They will soon graduate from the "1 Year and Out" City Colleges of Chicago Criminal Justice program. Chicago residents can earn an associate's of applied science degree in criminal justice at no cost in as little as 12 months.

Olive-Harvey College in the Pullman neighborhood is the only City College offering the program.

"This was a year, well a two-year program condensed into one," Johnson said. "So that was basically my life for the past year."

Dr. Jeffrey Dillard teaches the course.

"The stress that they get in this one year is really building up their muscles so that when they get into the academy and eventually get out into the workday world, they will have the strength that they need," Dillard said.

Dillard added there are five things he wants his students to be by the end of the program: critical thinkers, be mentally and physically fit, technically sound, culturally aware, and have a high level of ethical competence.

"I still have a silly idea in my head that we can still change the world for the better," he said.

"I want to be one of those officers," Flores said. "One of the officers who can look at you and say, 'You know what? You're messing up, but you can do better and you can change without messing up your life, without putting you in jail or putting something on your record that could potentially scar you for life.'"

The graduation ceremony this week will be held inside the college's Bruce Cherry Theatre.

Olive-Harvey College offers additional support for students, including with laptops and book vouchers, and assistance on police exams and power tests. The college said students who obtain a criminal justice degree can also go into other careers including as an air marshal, forensic science technician, state trooper, crime scene investigator, computer forensics specialists, U.S. Postal Inspector, victims advocate, police dispatcher, and more.

For more information and assistance filling out an application, call 773-COLLEGE or email with questions.

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