If high school students were in a race, the State College Area School District’s Career and Technical Center would give them a head start.
The CTC program, which has been in place since 1965, puts students in real-world working environments to allow them to explore career interests.
About 130 students in the program celebrated their experiences with 55 local businesses and organizations that provided them with job, internship and job shadowing opportunities at the district’s 50th annual employer appreciation brunch Thursday at the Nittany Lion Inn.
School board Vice President Jim Leous said the program is important because it connects the careers students are interested in with the elective classes they take.
Cheryl Speakman, who helped run the program from 1988 to 2013, said it has grown exponentially.
“There were about 25 in 1988, and it’s impressive to see how it’s expanded in the school and in the community,” she said. “It’s great for our community’s kids, and the employers have been major supporters, as has the school board, to help the school and community come together to help the kids build on their knowledge and skills.”
Senior Joel Nelson’s job in food preparation at Rotelli gave him an inside view of the culinary industry.
“I have a big passion for food, but I don’t know if I always want to work in food,” he said. “I decided I’m going into communications at Penn State Altoona instead of the culinary arts, but I have learned a lot at Rotelli’s. They were somewhat easy on me at first, and as I got more involved they expected more out of me.”
Senior Alexis Corte and junior Maddie Perry had been Penn State researchers for 10 hours a week since August.
Corte’s lab work consisted mostly of testing the relationship between iron deficiency and cognitive performance of women 18 to 35 years old. She wants to continue lab work at Penn State in the fall.
“I did everything from study recruitment to intake surveys, collecting blood samples, testing them for hemoglobin and collecting the serum from the blood to see their ferritin,” she said. “With iron deficiency there is anemia. If they were iron deficient anemic, they were excluded from the study”
Perry said she wants to go into health care, and got some experience researching asthma and anxiety in mice.
“My day-to-day routine was taking care of them to make sure they had food and water, weighing them and doing behavior tests for them,” Perry said. “We have arenas with cages or novel items to see their exploratory and locomotion behavior. A mouse that’s more anxious will be less likely to move around and explore. We do it from when they’re young pups to when they’re mature.”
Mariya Stefanovich’s work designing renovation projects for Weber Murphy Fox reinforced her desire to become an architectural engineer.
“I worked on small projects that they have with Penn State on the computer program Revit, and it was really nice to be able to work in a professional environment and see what a real architect does,” she said. “It was good to find out if I really wanted to go into it. Ever since I was little and saw my dad bring home house plans I wanted to go into architecture, and I just realized this is exactly for me.”