CASA GRANDE — The final slide of the agriculture camp’s presentation Thursday afternoon simply read: “The most important thing we can grow, is the next generation.”

It was a quote that summed up four days of the Casa Grande Elementary School District’s sixth annual Career Camp.

“That’s sort of what we do at the elementary level is we plant the seeds and start to water them and it’s the responsibility of the high school to care for them and cultivate them and grow them and harvest them,” Michael Cruz, communications and marketing specialist for the district, said. “At their age level and their cognition, the most we can do for them is introduce and plant that seed and then give them the right structure and mindset so they will be ready and grow.”

About 100 students ranging from incoming sixth graders to outgoing eighth graders participated in 10 different camps including animal science, fire science, agriculture, law enforcement, mock trial, manufacturing, utilities, pharmacy, health and performance.

The students gave presentations at the camp showcase about what they learned over the previous week in front of their fellow campers, parents and dignitaries, including Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland as well as members of the CGESD school board.

“This is an amazing opportunity for you young people to get a feel for jobs and careers that are out there for you,” McFarland told the campers before the presentations started.

Cruz said the career camp has grown each year and included new camps this year in performing arts, mock trial, manufacturing and utilities, and next year the district is hoping to add construction.

“We are hoping to add a construction camp and have local and outside construction managers come in and facilitate that and adding another layer of CTE (career and technical education),” Cruz said.

He added that planning for the career camp starts months in advance with the district typically contacting organizations that are interested in participating sometime in January and then continuing the planning.

Cruz said the only cost to the district is the transportation and feeding the students, but the lesson planning and the activities are all done by the different organizations that are sponsoring the camps.

“It’s a big responsibility when they take it because they pretty much have the students Monday to Thursday and they are responsible for the lessons and the activities that go on,” he said.

Information on the camps went out to the students in April and Cruz said it was a first come, first serve basis with no costs to the families.

He added that two things led to the decision on which camps to provide — one the district’s vision and mission and the other being what the students were interested in.

Cruz said that this year a lot of students had expressed interest in performing arts, so the district contacted the Salvation Army because it has a free program and the students could continue with it after the camp is over.

“Our goal is to introduce them to new careers and to give them the skills to be successful both in and out of the classroom and to prepare them for the workforce,” Cruz said. “Our goal is to introduce them to all of these career fields and give them an insight into the jobs of tomorrow and better them.”

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