U.S. Army

A representative from the U.S. Army gives a presentation to students Feb. 20 during COLLEGECon at the CAVIT campus.

COOLIDGE — Navigating the higher education and professional worlds is not always the most straightforward undertaking. For seniors in their last year in high school, the experience can be overwhelming and, in some cases, downright nerve-racking.

There are so many questions students may find themselves asking leading up to May, and many more decision to make. Should I go to college? Should I attend a university or go to community college first? How will I pay for it? Where will I live?

With countless important decisions on the horizon, the Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology provides students with many of the answers they seek in one place through COLLEGECon.

COLLEGECon is part of a series of conferences put on by the career and technical education district throughout the year. Like CUSTOMERCon and CAVITCon, which give students a glimpse into the professional world, COLLEGECon allows students to better understand the options available to them upon graduation.

Held on Feb. 20, the event featured 11 presenters from educational institutions and other organizations that spoke to groups of CAVIT students about the educational and professional opportunities available to them after high school.

Presenters included Grand Canyon University, New Mexico State University, the University of Arizona and Arizona State University. Students attended four presentations of their choosing.

“They get to personalize their experience for the day instead of us (the teachers) choosing for them,” massage therapy instructor William Snyder said. “What is amazing that makes this (event) different is that if a student is not interested in going into the military, they’re not going to go into the military room. So you just have a more captivated, engaged audience for the presenters.”

College presentations sought to answer common questions students might have about life as a college student, from dorm life to applying for financial aid.

The event also sought to give students a clear picture of what life after high school could look like for them. Some presentations, such as the one given by Pinal County Federal Credit Union, provided insight into necessary life skills like budgeting and financing.

But COLLEGECon featured something for everyone, including those students who may not feel college is the right option for them. The conference also brought presenters to the classroom to speak to students about career paths and other options that may be available to them right out of high school.

“Today is all about options,” Snyder said. “We know that (for) some people college is not in their career path, and it might not be something that they do right after high school.”

Presenters for those sections included representatives of the Army and Marine Corps, who spoke with interested students from different programs about the professional opportunities available within the military.

The district also raised awareness about another opportunity students have upon graduating from the CTE school — returning to CAVIT.

After successfully completing the program they are currently enrolled in through CAVIT, students have the option to return to the school and participate in another program, but few are really aware of it, Snyder noted.

“Someone might say in passing ‘Oh, I wish I could come here for this,’ and we go ‘well you can,’” Snyder said. “So we had the idea (to) let the kids know.”

Offering enrollment in a second program provides an opportunity for CAVIT graduates to be much more marketable to employers through dual licensing in industries such as cosmetology and massage therapy, Snyder noted.

In other industries, having a background in different but relatable skill sets might also help CAVIT alumni stand out.

“It gives the student the opportunity to kind of enrich their career,” Snyder said. “You know, going through the law program and then seeing things through the lens of a firefighter, that could just change the way that they approach things.”

The out-of-pocket costs associated with participating in a CAVIT course as an adult student is about $2,800 per year, Snyder noted. However, those costs are currently covered through a grant provided within the state budget. To be eligible for the grant, returning students must be under the age of 21.

Following up Thursday’s event, the school district encouraged students to come up with a “CAVIT vision” where students articulated their future educational and professional goals.

“We want every student who graduates here to be able to articulate their plan for the future,” Snyder said.