Social Security

Prepare to defend yourself, your home and your homeland.

Linda was last in a classroom 35 years ago. But even back then, she says, she might have been drawn to this program. "I was in the Civil Air Patrol when I was a teen," she recalls, "and it sparked an interest. Once, when there was a downed airplane, we got to secure the area." The spark reignited after twenty years of hospital work and Linda's current job as a Cub Foods cashier. Now, when she graduates, Linda's hoping for a bigger, better, more important job. Even if what that job might be remains vague.

"For me to just spew off what they may or may not be doing after graduation would not be right," says Kathleen Hearne, placement director for Corinthian Colleges Incorporated, Parks's parent company. "It's an intense curriculum, and the Homeland Security needs are just now developing. I can tell you that meetings with very important companies are going on right now."

Furthermore, as anyone at CCI will tell you, the program was developed with input from very important people, including a NORAD colonel, a posse of SWAT team members, retired FBI agents, police officers, deputy sheriffs and anti-terrorist consultants.

Homeland is where the heart is: Larry Sisson prepares 
his students for careers in preparation.
Anthony Camera
Homeland is where the heart is: Larry Sisson prepares his students for careers in preparation.

"The feds and the state are trying to put their arms around this gorilla we call Homeland Security," observes Sisson.

Esmerelda, a student who says she once worked in classified areas of the federal government (and whose name is definitely not Esmerelda), wants to be part of it. "The interesting thing is that I left the government for the corporate world because I thought it offered so much more," she says. "But after 9/11, I knew I needed to be back in the family, and they have very stringent rules about coming back. Luckily, the federal government is very interested in this program."

John is more interested in private-sector opportunities. "As a painting contractor, I already go into homes and assess a project," he points out. "I'd like to go into corporations and assess their security risk. There's also going to be a huge business in team-building around disaster prevention. People used to go out into nature and bond, but now you could integrate that with Homeland Security. You can make it to where it actually has some meaning."

John makes good money, but he's tired of brushes and rollers. "I took 9/11 personally," he says. "First I was in shock, and then I was like, let's get that guy. Now my eyes are open. I realized I didn't have to go overseas to defend my country."

Which would be nearly impossible, anyway: John has four children, a fifth on the way, and a paralegal wife who attends law school at night. Nevertheless, he serves as vice president of Parks's Homeland Security Club and is the most vocal member of the class. Defending your homeland brings it out in a man.

Sisson throws out another question:

"What do they have at Rocky Flats?"

"Weapons-grade plutonium!" someone yells.

"That, and a whole lot of secrets!" shouts Sisson. "Rocky Flats would be an excellent place to attack."

So excellent that he gives the class an assignment: Describe your initial response and containment actions for a terrorist attack on Rocky Flats. And do it in twenty minutes, after breaking into small groups.

"But we haven't worked in groups before," John says.

"Haven't worked in groups? Get over it, folks," Sisson says. "You're going to live in a group from now on."

To commemorate Westword's 25th anniversary, Robin Chotzinoff offered 25 profiles of Denver today -- ending with this column. Click here to read these stories.

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