As the 2014-15 school year is about to start, we are excited about a number of new programs and projects we are offering at the East Valley Institute of Technology.

The Future Engineers program at our East Campus will provide students with hands-on activities and college credit at ASU Polytechnic in a unique high school engineering program designed to ultimately result in more homegrown engineers for Intel. Our Culinary Arts program will open Bistro 13 on Main Street, giving our students experience in operating a restaurant while providing downtown and west Mesa with a wonderful menu featuring global cuisine. A new partnership with George Brazil Home Services will lead to the first-ever George Brazil School of Home Services and Plumbing being established at our Main Campus and help ensure that the Valley continues to have well-trained workers in this vital industry.

But most of all, we are excited about another year of providing quality, advanced career and technical education to high school students and adults. Career and technical education has come a long way since you and I took home ec and wood shop in high school. Indeed, it has come a long way since the EVIT Joint Technological Education District formed in the mid-1990s.

We have a wide range of students at EVIT. Two out of three are going on to college. An additional third plan to go directly into the workforce. Many go into the military. EVIT is able to serve them all because career and technical education is for everyone — honors students, kinesthetic learners who learn best in a hands-on environment, students with special needs, average students who have an aptitude for a particular vocation. EVIT supplements the education they receive at their district high school, charter school or at home by teaching them to think and put that knowledge into action as they find their passion for what they want to do in life.

And in doing so, EVIT supplies the Valley with its next generation of firefighters, nurses, cosmetologists, collision repair experts, precision machinists, and so many more productive professionals who are vital to our economy and quality of life.

Each EVIT student’s experience is unique. For example, our EVIT School of Health Sciences provides many different pathways for students who want a career in the health care industry. Some start out in our Human Anatomy & Physiology program as juniors before moving on to a specialty such as dental careers in their senior year. Some are in a program such as medical assistant for two years as they prepare for their CMA licensing exam and a career right out of high school. Some enroll in the nursing assistant program so they can get their license and work as a CNA while going to college to become a registered nurse. In fact, many of our students plan to use their EVIT training to obtain a job to help pay for college.

For too many years, career and technical education was viewed by traditional educators as only being for “those kids” who were not academically successful or who were on the verge of dropping out. And there are still some today who believe this and try to deny some of their students the opportunity to go to EVIT by counseling them that EVIT isn’t for honors students or kids who want to go to college. EVIT students are living proof that the opposite is true: EVIT is for smart kids who figured out early that they need skills in addition to knowledge and that those skills can help pay for college.

Every year, we honor the EVIT Student of the Year at our Completion Ceremony in May. This year, we had so many outstanding students that we ended up recognizing 10 Students of the Year. Students such as:

• Kirsten Carnevale, who earned a $44,000 scholarship to Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania in large part because of her EVIT dental internship. She plans to become a dentist specializing in oral and maxillofacial surgery.

• Alex Rodriguez, who earned his private pilot license and is going to attend the University of North Dakota to pursue a degree in aviation.

• Colton Zeitler, who earned a 4.1 GPA and completed 448 hours of service in EVIT’s Nursing Assistant program. He earned a scholarship to Grand Canyon University and plans to become an anesthesiologist.

When I visit our classrooms to talk with our students, I am always impressed by their focus, intelligence, creativity and determination to succeed. If you’ve never been to EVIT, we invite you to visit our Main and East campuses for a tour and the opportunity to meet your future workforce.

I think you’ll find that the Valley’s future is in good hands.

• Dr. Sally Downey is superintendent of the East Valley Institute of Technology.

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