Spring 2011

Student Preparedness

Postsecondary Education: Every Scholar Needs a Skill

Postsecondary Education: Every Scholar Needs a Skill

East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) in Mesa, Arizona has a saying, “Every Scholar Needs a Skill.” There is a short period of time while students are in the care of the public schools to prepare them for life after graduation. While EVIT contends that academic rigor is essential, it is also believed to be equally critical for every student to graduate from high school with a marketable skill. That skill, however, is not meant to be the end of their education. In fact, it should help a student prepare for post-secondary education.

East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) in Mesa, Arizona has a saying, “Every Scholar Needs a Skill.” There is a short period of time while students are in the care of the public schools to prepare them for life after graduation. While EVIT contends that academic rigor is essential, it is also believed to be equally critical for every student to graduate from high school with a marketable skill. That skill, however, is not meant to be the end of their education. In fact, it should help a student prepare for postsecondary education.

Having a skill that pays more than typical entry level work can help students pay their way through college.

Better Pay and Schedules

Many Cosmetology and Massage Therapy students at EVIT plan to use their skills to support themselves while they continue their education. Instead of earning minimum wage with no control over their work schedule, they can determine the number of hours they will work and establish their own work time that coincides with their school schedule.

Hands-on Experience

Secondly, career training provides an exploration platform for students while they are still in tuition-free public schools. Arizona State University has such a high number of students who enter “undeclared” as their major that they now have a new curriculum that includes “exploration.” Their hope is that the students will learn about a core of majors and be able to make a choice within the first year. It is not uncommon for a student who has not researched career fields to change their major more than once until they find their niche. This not only increases the number of years of college attendance, but certainly increases the cost of their education.

EVIT has helped students who initially expressed an interest in a career field but after trying it decided it wasn’t for them. While they are still in a public school environment, they have the luxury of trying something else without accruing a large debt. For example a student may want to enter the medical field but learn quickly that they can’t stand the sight of blood, or they really don’t have the caretaker personality that it requires. It could take years in college before they have the “hands-on” experience to help them reach that conclusion.

Passions into Paychecks

Thirdly, career training helps students “jump start” their career. There is another saying at EVIT, “We turn passions into paychecks.” If a student finds his or her passion, we provide the training and avenues for actual experience. Each program has a work experience component. For example, in EVIT’s Automotive Technology program students begin in their junior year with a job shadowing experience. Nearly 30 automobile dealerships in the greater Phoenix area welcome their future workforce into their businesses to provide an inside glimpse of the real working world. Each dealer mentors a number of students through the two-year training program, providing on the job training and internships during the students’ senior year. These internships often become jobs after high school, and many of the automobile dealers pay for continued education at both community colleges and four year universities.

Two out of every three students who complete a program at EVIT continue their education after high school. That is twice as many as a typical high school nationally.

EVIT contends that once students find what they like and can do well, they start looking for the next step. The teacher serves as a mentor encouraging the student to continue their education.

EVIT also prepares students for postsecondary education academically. The level of rigor is such that the Board of Regents for the Universities in Arizona has accepted Career and Technical classes at EVIT for imbedded credits in Math and Science. It also has been shown that students who have taken Career and Technical classes pass and score higher on the Arizona AIMS test.

Helping every student find a skill can give them the support, academics, and confidence to pursue their dreams.

Dr. Sally Downey is the superintendent of East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT), in Mesa, Arizona. Dr. Downey acts as the visionary for EVIT, a Career and Technical Joint Educational District. She provides leadership and direction for the total operation of the school that includes a 38 million-dollar operational budget. As a result of Dr. Downey’s leadership, EVIT was named an A+ School in Arizona and a top Career and Technical School by the United States Department of Education. Dr. Downey holds both a Master's degree and a Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma.

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