Among the many CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs available at a DSUSD high school, are two unique opportunities to prepare for a career as a first responder or other occupation based on community service. One program is available at Shadow Hills High School in Indio and the other at La Quinta High School. Both base their programs on a combination of academics, hands-on-training, volunteerism, and public service.

SHHS Emergency Management Academy

By Sharon Kalkoske, Ed.D., college and career assistant principal in collaboration with teachers Omar Castro and Curtis Hendricks

Students Prepare for Careers in Public Service

SHHS EMA students with their CERT certificates of completion.

When there’s an emergency, our Knights Emergency Management Academy (EMA) students are prepared to help! EMA students learn technical skills such as CPR, first aid, disaster preparedness, and, new this year, EMT (emergency medical technician) hands-on skills and procedures utilizing a SimRig ambulance trainer ( Students learn about emergency response careers and then partner with Riverside County Fire Department and local law enforcement organizations for station visits. Students train and receive certifications in first aid/CPR, develop leadership core values and principles, and participate in a teen-based CERT program (Community Emergency Response Team) with the city of Indio. There are various community service project opportunities and a dual enrollment program is offered through College of the Desert’s firefighting curriculum with the awarding of college credits. In describing the program, a current EMA student said, “. . . [we] learn about the topic first and then transfer to hands-on learning, trying to find a way to implement the information into [our] lives.”

Collaborating with community public safety personnel, EMA students participate in a wide variety of activities related to their studies including operating a first aid tent at graduation. This year, two EMA students entered their very first SkillsUSA competition advancing to the state level competition. Several CTE programs throughout the district participate in the SkillsUSA programs. Its mission statement is a testimony to the goals set forth in all DSUSD CTE programs.  SkillsUSA empowers its members to become world-class workers, leaders, and responsible American citizens. We improve the quality of our nation’s future skilled workforce through the development of SkillsUSA framework skills that include personal, workplace, and technical skills grounded in academics. Our vision is to produce the most highly skilled workforce in the world, providing every member the opportunity for career success.

In addition to the training as a first responder, part of the EMA pathway includes a dual enrollment class with COD in criminal justice. Dual enrollment classes mean that students receive both high school and college credit (at no charge) and have access to the school’s resources. This class introduces students to the characteristics of the criminal justice system in the United States. Focus is placed on examining crime measurement, theoretical explanations of crime, responses to crime, components of the system, and current challenges to the system. The course examines the evolution of the principles and approaches utilized by the justice system and the evolving forces that have shaped those principles and approaches.

For students wishing to pursue a degree in the field of criminal justice, including police, corrections, or legal careers, this class is a prerequisite class to most of the criminal justice classes at College of the Desert.

Student comments about the EMA include: “Class was very informative and interesting. This class has opened up my mind to a possible future in the criminal justice field” ~ Isabella G., 12th Grade Student

“My plan is to have a future career in the criminal justice field. This was a great class and I feel it has helped to prepare me for my future career and college major.”  ~ Kaelyn M., 12th Grade Student

For more information on the program click here and select Shadow Hills High School from the ‘Select a School’ drop down menu.


LQHS Public Service Academy

By Kevin Schmidt, teacher

Students Prepare for Careers in Public Service

LQHS PSA students know that teamwork brings you to new heights.

The La Quinta High School Public Service Academy (PSA) is a three-year program that begins in sophomore year. It is designed for students who have an interest in public service careers including law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical, legal, civil service, social work, and other careers that benefit the community. Students are exposed to a variety of public service career fields through guest speakers, field trips, and numerous hands-on and enrichment activities. Community service is a part of the program. Sophomores and juniors are required to complete forty hours of volunteer community service each year. Seniors are required to complete an internship or work experience as their capstone project. The focus of this program is to encourage students to prepare for and follow a career to help others.

PSA places emphasis on hands-on learning and career-related activities. Partners in the program include: Riverside County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Border Patrol, Cal Fire, San Diego Police Department, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, California State Parks, Los Angeles Mounted Police, and many others. Field trips directly related to the instructional content and career fields are integral to the program. Each year students take a minimum of one college field trip to campuses such as: Cal State Long Beach, Cal State San Marcos, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State San Bernardino, San Diego State, College of the Desert, and several others to learn how they can continue their public service preparation at the college level.

Students Prepare for Careers in Public Service


While in the academy, students experience a variety of unique learning activities not normally available to high school students. They will learn some self-defense techniques. All three years of the program focus on physical fitness as an essential requirement for most public service careers. They will work out in a state-of-the-art fitness center and participate in a variety of fitness-related activities. Students learn how to interact with the public while completing community service requirements. They learn basic tactics of law enforcement and firefighting. Students utilize a well-equipped laboratory classroom to receive instruction in the forensic sciences and crime scene investigation. Students train and receive certifications in first aid/CPR, develop leadership core values and principles, and participate in a teen-based CERT program (Community Emergency Response Team) with the city of La Quinta. Beginning in 2021-22, seniors will have the opportunity to obtain their first responder certification. Academy students will also have the opportunity to join a CTE student organization and participate in student competitions.

PSA students have the opportunity to take College of the Desert’s Introduction to Criminal Justice, Principles of Emergency Management, and First Responder courses. Completion of this set of classes entitles students to receive a certificate in Emergency Management from COD. These classes are also prerequisite courses for a variety of programs at the college including the basic police and fire academies.

Upon completion of the three-year program, Public Service Academy students have a solid foundation of knowledge about public service careers. Along the way, they will be encouraged to focus on the career path they wish to follow. They will leave the program with several of the building blocks and prerequisites to a successful career in public service.

For more information on the program visit and select La Quinta High School from the ‘Select a School’ drop down menu.

Image Sources

  • Shhs-ema-students-with-their-cert-certificates-of-completion: DSUSD
  • SHHS EMA students: DSUSD