Graduation ceremonies are set for today for the first class of Cook County correctional officer cadets who qualify for financial benefits through the G.I. Bill, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.
Last month, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs recognized the Sheriff of Cook County Training Academy as an approved site for benefits, meaning military veterans who graduate from the academy can receive credit for one full year of financial compensation as detailed in the G.I. Bill.
Two military veterans qualifying for those benefits are among the 25 cadets graduating in ceremonies set for 2 p.m. today at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Heights. Events will take place in Building M, off the 111th Street entrance to the campus.
“We are incredibly proud to have our training academy recognized as a place where those who served our country can receive additional compensation for continuing their education and careers,” Dart said. “It’s our hope that the status encourages more military veterans to consider a career in law enforcement after they’ve safely come home.”
There are eight veterans enrolled in the Sheriff of Cook County Training Academy, preparing for careers in law enforcement. Under the G.I. Bill, eligible veterans, National Guard, Reservists and eligible dependents can receive a stipend of nearly $9,000 while completing their training.
“Our veterans proudly answered the call to protect and defend this nation and it’s our top priority to ensure that they have access to a great education and great jobs when they return from deployment,” said IDVA Director Dan Grant. “We are pleased to partner with the Sheriff’s Training Academy so that veterans can now use their G.I. Bill benefits to proudly protect and defend the citizens of Cook County.”
Among those graduating and beginning careers as correctional officers at the Cook County Jail are Keena Bradley, who was designated to be the Commander of her class. She received the Army Achievement Medal from the 933rd Military Police Division while serving with the Illinois Army National Guard in 2009. She was the only female to complete a rigorous obstacle course and physical challenge during 2010 training, while she also served as a member of the Funeral Honor Guard.
Also graduating is Joseph Calderone, who has served our country as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. He is also a member of the Chicago Community Emergency Response Team, which is made up of volunteers who are trained in assisting with hands-on disaster response techniques in case of an emergency.
This graduating class also includes nationally recognized athletes, including Patrick Cunningham, who led Indiana University Purdue University of Indianapolis to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and later graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Also, Matthew Krzeptowski represented Chicago in a 2009 international boxing tournament.
Since 2007, correctional officer candidates have had to meet strict minimum requirements even to be considered for a position. Sheriff Dart introduced mandatory physical training, psychological and polygraph examinations, as well as thorough background checks for all candidates as part of an overhaul to the hiring process