A chance to explore higher education and professional opportunities excited middle and high school students to plot their next move with the savvy of a grandmaster thanks to Imperial Valley College.
The 16th IVC Career Education Expo on May 2 welcomed more than 1,100 students from 19 schools across the county to the campus to stoke their curiosity. In the Nursing and Health Sciences Building, Danny Ortiz, nursing instructor and simulations coordinator, lead tours through a high-fidelity medical ward.
A startling mannequin "patient" programed to simulate wheezing lungs, palpitating heart and gurgling stomach helped Ortiz demonstrate how nurses detect seasonal allergies, asthma flares and abdominal disorders.
"We want to expose the middle and high school kids to career opportunities when they graduate," said Ortiz. "We want to let them know about health careers through a nursing pathway. But overall, we want to inspire our young and have them pursue a health profession or first-responder career."
Accompanying 55 ambitious eighth- and ninth-grade students from Borrego Springs Middle School, Justine Smiley, an earth sciences teacher, said he hoped the IVC tour would open youthful minds to a broader perspective.
"I liked the college's format to allow students to wonder the campus," said Smiley. "Kids could talk to exhibitors based on their personal interests and force them to step out of their boundaries, talk to instructors and see what a college campus looks like. But most important, let the kids know there's a broad array of choices."
Though tentatively having identified a profession she's attracted to, Tateanna Berry, 14, a Borrego school ninth grader, did express some reservations.
"I've always been interested in nursing, possibly midwifery," said Tateanna. "But I worry once I work in it I might never want children myself. But I also looked into the electrical wiring lab and that might be a career. I've always liked industrial design."
Showing off a training board in the electrical lab, Dario Ortega had students' eyes riveted as he explained it provides an understanding of how electricity works in commercial and industrial settings.
The program prepares students to obtain their Occupational Safety & Health Act 30 card and two additional electrical trade certificates, noted Ortega.
"The advantage of this program (five courses in two semesters), they'll be certified as soon as they finish high school," he said. "You'd be able to get hired off the bat by any construction company. And earnings start at $20 an hour in a big city and $17 in Imperial County."
Chuck Putnam, a Calexico High School teacher, brought his eager class of special-education math students to the electrical lab.
"These kids are mildly disabled and reading can be a challenge so a hands-on trade can be beneficial," said Putnam. "Career technical education will get them in the ground floor for a promising career and show them they don't have to go to a four-year college."
Marco Alcaraz, one of Putnam's graduating seniors, is looking forward to attending IVC in the fall.
"I'm considering studying to become an electrician," he said. "I prefer working with my hands. But I'm training now to do auto mechanics."
Spearheading the Expo, Efrain Silva, dean of IVC's Economic & Workforce Development, explained the intent was to display the wide range of academic curriculum and professions available.
"We want to expose the students to higher education on our campus and the professionals who'll show them a chance for advancement is real, whether they strive to obtain a certificate, transfer to a four-year college or just upgrade their skills to gain a promotion," he said.