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The Future is Spelled "CTE"

The future of Career and Technical Education (CTE) is looking a lot brighter for Yuma County’s middle schoolers.

“CTE the Future,” held last week at Arizona Western College, highlighted the work being done with the Yuma Arizona Business and Education Coalition (ABEC), the Yuma County Superintendent’s Office, AWC, the Southwest Technical Education District of Yuma (STEDY) and Yuma County Chamber of Commerce partnerships.

The event featured a variety of speakers which included: Superintendent of Schools Tom Tyree; AWC President Daniel Corr; Arizona Legislative Representatives Tim Dunn (District 13) and Charlene Fernandez (District 4); award-winning local teachers; and key people from ABEC, the Arizona Department of Education, Center for the Future of Arizona, Junior Achievement, Pipeline AZ, My Future AZ and more.

Introducing the event, Tyree explained the need to emphasize CTE in middle school, stating that data says students need to start thinking about careers sooner than they already do. Additionally, students need courses that are engaging, relevant and hands-on.

“I always say that we don’t have a learning problem, we have an engagement problem,” said Tyree. With the changes being made to middle school education, Tyree also shared that his granddaughter now “comes out and tells me about what she’s doing in middle school. That’s part of the importance of the program.”

The changes discussed included a look at what classrooms are doing now as well as organization involvement and career exploration.

In the way of career exploration, more opportunities abound with the resources shared at the event that are free to educators and students. The Center for the Future of Arizona offers a Possible Futures curriculum with modules related to “lenses on the future,” skills for success and “STEMploration.” The curriculum is meant to pair well with Yuma ABEC’s industry curriculum on construction, automotive and hospitality.

My Future AZ from the Arizona Department of Education offers a new career exploration and planning platform that students can use. Pipeline AZ, an Arizona career development and job skills exploration platform, has extended technology and infrastructure to the new platform. Its graphical user interface is meant to be very user-friendly for students.

Students can also attend a virtual career fair with JA Inspire, a program from Junior Achievement of Arizona. The program includes Arizona employers and hopes to add more.

Edge Factor is another tool being employed in Yuma to educate students on their options. The organization provides films with in-depth looks at career opportunities that students may not have heard of otherwise.

Noting the importance of partnerships in bringing more resources to classrooms, Debra Raeder, Vice President of Program Development at ABEC, stated that anyone can get involved now by joining a new platform, CommunityShare. The platform allows businesses, members of the community and educators to create profiles and requests for assistance in classroom projects that might benefit from outside collaboration.

Three educators, who’ve been recognized for their work, were able to share videos on their work where each of the projects mentioned were made possible with business and community involvement.

Kaitlin McGill, the 2021 Arizona Rural School Association Teacher of the Year from Crane Middle School, shared about a hydroponic garden in her classroom as well as the virtual field trips and presenters that her students could engage with.

“With the help of ABEC and the community, I was able to take an idea of hydroponics and build a 16’ long deep water hydroponics system,” said McGill. “Now we are expanding to aquaponics. This is all student-driven. I plant the idea seed and they take it. They designed it all and with the help of their community, their designs have come to fruition.”

David Cullison, the 2019 Middle School Teacher of the Year from Fourth Avenue Junior High, shared his classroom’s work in industrial arts and automotive where students could learn the basics of automotive from remote-controlled cars. He also shared that students in woodworking discover many practical applications of math as they build homes, art and more. One recent collaboration involved creating portraits for seniors with the help of local artists.

Kerry Morse, the 2021 Middle School Teacher of the Year from Castle Dome Middle School, shared how her agriculture students are excited to have hands-on learning opportunities. One student, despite getting their new sneakers dirty, couldn’t get enough of the rototiller that the class had access to. Students in Morse’s class have opportunities to hear from guest speakers, attend field trips and work in garden beds. Morse told the Sun that her students will be growing lettuce in the beds soon and are also expecting to plant donated transplants in their in-ground garden the coming week.

The consistent discussion during Q&A with these educators regarded how the experiences have encouraged student engagement. Dick Foreman, President and CEO of ABEC, was especially interested in hearing from the teachers that students enjoyed hearing from people outside their schools.

Foreman also brought up his outside perspective at the event as someone who’s been around “every corner of the state” and took a moment to take a pulse from the audience to describe Yuma in one word.

Among the answers, the crowd of over 100 shared words such as community, collaboration, motivation, agility, partnership, heart and ownership.

Foreman said that Yuma creates its own economic, education and civic weather better than anywhere else he’s seen.

“If you look around the country at the single most effective graduation accelerators, it’s CTE,” he said. “When you successfully engage with education, with business leadership, with community leadership, you provide the resources to your quality teachers, you win and that’s why Yuma creates its own weather.”

To learn more about Yuma ABEC in action, visit

Sisko J. Stargazer can be reached at 928-539-6849 or

ABEC Yuma County Locations

Centennial Middle School

2650 W 20th St, Yuma, AZ 85364

(928) 373-3300

Crane Middle School

4450 W 32nd St, Yuma, AZ 85364

(928) 373-3200

Castle Dome Middle School

2353 Otondo Dr, Yuma, AZ 85365

(928) 502-7300

Fourth Avenue Jr. High School

450 S 4th Ave, Yuma, AZ 85364

(928) 502-7000

Gila Vista Jr. High School

2245 S Arizona Ave, Yuma, AZ 85365

(928) 502-7100

Gowan Science Academy

1020 S Avenue C, Yuma, AZ 85364

(928) 539-1200

Ron Watson Middle School

9851 E 28th St, Yuma, AZ 85365

(928) 502-7400

R Pete Woodard Junior High School

2250 S 8th Ave, Yuma, AZ 85364

(928) 502-7200

San Luis Middle School

1135 Main St, San Luis, AZ 85349

(928) 627-6920

Southwest Junior High School

963 8th Ave, San Luis, AZ 85349

(928) 627-6580