Downey: All students deserve a school where learning works - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Downey: All students deserve a school where learning works

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Sally Downey is superintendent of the East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa.

Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 9:12 am | Updated: 8:54 am, Thu Feb 21, 2013.

Sometimes, it takes a pair of outside eyes to see what those who are closest often overlook. Such was the case last year when the East Valley Institute of Technology was touted by TIME magazine as “learning that works.” The writer traveled to Mesa, toured EVIT and saw first-hand how we prepare young people for productive, successful lives while meeting the needs of business and industry. Hearing from EVIT students made the biggest impact. Kids want to come to EVIT. They love it here.

EVIT is one of 13 joint technological education districts (JTEDs) in Arizona offering career and technical education (CTE) programs. But among those, EVIT is unique. For instance, EVIT is tuition-free to charter and online students, as well as district students.

In the 1990s, legislation was passed to allow for the creation of JTEDs. EVIT became the first as 10 school districts – Mesa, Gilbert, Higley, Chandler, Tempe, Apache Junction, J.O. Combs, Queen Creek, Fountain Hills and Scottsdale – came together to create one career and technical campus that would offer rigorous CTE courses in the most cost-efficient way.

EVIT began in 1991 as a 14-acre campus with 750 students at 200 S. Center in Mesa. Today, EVIT serves more than 3,000 students at two Mesa campuses: the 65-acre Dr. A. Keith Crandell (Main) Campus and the 10-acre East Campus. An additional 15,000 students are enrolled in “satellite” programs at their home schools that are funded by EVIT.

EVIT offers nearly 40 occupational programs – aviation, cosmetology, fashion design, video, among others – to high school students. Tuition-based programs for adult students are also offered.

Programs on the EVIT campus are not the basic shop or home economics classes you may have taken in high school.Working with Valley business advisers, EVIT creates training programs that are market-driven, filling an industry need. Our campuses feature high-tech, state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. Through unique partnerships with businesses and organizations like Leading Edge Auto and Adelante health care, we are able to train students for careers AND college. In fact, 2 out of 3 EVIT students go on to college compared to 1 out of 3 students at traditional high schools.

Most EVIT students earn certificates, licenses, or documentation of completing a business- or industry-certified program. For instance, 97 percent of our 450 cosmetology students become licensed.

EVIT’s programs are successful because we make teaching and learning relevant to what students want to know and do. Or, as we like to say: We turn passions into paychecks.

EVIT is open to ALL kids, including honors students who plan to go to college.

Students like Oregon neurosurgeon Dr. Neil Roundy, who took EVIT’s health foundations class about 15 years ago.

“EVIT was an eye-opener and a door-opener for me,” Roundy told EVIT health students on one of his return visits. “It was a start to get me where I wanted to be.”

Landry Low, who completed EVIT’s fashion merchandising program in 2011, is now studying at the prestigious Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“The best choice I ever made in my life was to come to EVIT because EVIT led me to Pratt,” Low said during a recent visit. “Everybody has a place in this world. EVIT allows you to find your place.”

Every day, similar success stories are being written at EVIT as our students are immersed in education and training based on our “3 Rs” – rigor, relevance and relationships. They are proof-positive that career and technical education works.

But often, students must overcome obstacles to attend EVIT. For instance, if they delay taking many of their required academic courses until their junior or senior year, they may be unable to fit an EVIT class into their schedule. Embedded credits – which would allow rigorous CTE courses based on math, science or other academic subjects to count as required credits to graduate – are prevalent in other states and long overdue in Arizona.

So, as we observe Career and Technical Education Month, let’s celebrate our CTE successes in Arizona. And let’s look for ways to ensure all of our kids have the opportunity to attend a school like EVIT, “where learning works.”

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