Great Things Happening at CAVIT
Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology (CAVIT) students recently completed their career and technical (CTE) technical skills assessments (TSA). They earned high marks when compared to other students across the state.
The CTE TSA “are designed to certify and document student attainment of industry-validated knowledge and skills through an online testing application” (read more on the Arizona Department of Education website).
Because the TSA are based on technical industry standards and regularly reviewed and updated as work conditions change. Once a student passes their TSA they are certified to work in their field of study.
The high marks earned by students place CAVIT first through fourth in top career and technical education (CTED) rankings. Here is how our programs rate:
- Cosmetology - #1 ranked CTED in state with 100% pass rate.
- Dental Assistant - #2 ranked CTED in state with 100% pass rate.
- Fire Service - #4 ranked CTED in state with 89% pass rate.
- Law Enforcement - #1 ranked CTED in state with 93% pass rate.
- Massage Therapy - #1 ranked CTED in state with 100% pass rate.
- Medical Assistant - #2 ranked CTED in state with 100% pass rate.
- Veterinary Assistant - #3 ranked CTED in state with 100% pass rate.
CAVIT students and teachers are thrilled with the results! Congratulations, and well done!
Before Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology (CAVIT) seniors graduate from the medical assistant program, they go through a skills test conducted by outside industries. Ms. Tiffany Brown, the medical assistant instructor, explains, "At the end of the year, we have industry come in. It supports us, and it also gives them a chance to look at future employees. So, it's a win-win for both." Having an outside institution administer the skills tests means that the teacher isn't the only evaluator of the students' skills. It benefits the students to see different perspectives, different techniques, and real-world insight into working in the field.
This year the outside professional administering the test was former CAVIT alumni, Mr. Marcus Castillo. Mr. Castillo completed his course work at CAVIT to become a registered medical assistant (RMA) and now works full time as an emergency room technician. He began work as an intern during his senior year at CAVIT and was hired permanently before he graduated.
Ms. Brown says that having an alumni return for the skills tests continues CAVIT's support of former students. She says, "Overall, it not only benefits our current students to have that participation, it also supports our alumni and shows that we value them because we taught [them]." Mr. Castillo says, "I'm happy they selected me to do it. It's always nice to be back in the atmosphere of Ms. Brown, to be able to help the kids out, and to share some of the things I've learned."
One of Ms. Brown's seniors this year, Jolene Brookins, says that the skills test helps her feel more confident in her abilities. She says, "We've perfected taking vital signs. We've been going over that since the first year." It's the newer skills that she feels more nervous about. Overall, Jolene loved the hands-on part of learning at CAVIT. She says, "I think, really, you can read a book and learn the material, but actually doing that actual physical, hand-on is really fun for me. For example, last week on Thursday we got some pigs' feet, and we sutured them up. I enjoyed that so much."
Not only is the medical science degree at CAVIT an outstanding program, it provides a strong network for the students as they enter the workforce. Ms. Brown states that she gets calls from locations all over the valley looking to hire her students. Speaking to the reputation of the program, Ms. Brown says, "I share jobs all day long! When [industry professionals] believe in your school that you attended, and they call looking for students in the next few years, that makes me feel happy to work at CAVIT."
Ms. Brown related an experience of one student who was working at an internship when a patient passed out. The intern caught the patient, laid her down, and began to perform CPR. The private clinic hired that student on the spot because of the professional way the student handled the situation. Ms. Brown strives to give all her students that calm confidence as they prepare to enter the workforce.
Mr. Castillo enjoyed his time at CAVIT. He learned his favorite saying from Ms. Brown: "We don't do it good; we do it great!" It's become a mantra for him as he's advanced in his career. "Even today when I'm at work, I'll think about it. It was very important to me. And I always try to encourage my co-workers too. Why be good when you can do something great? Ms. Brown taught that."
As for Jolene, now that she's graduated, she looks forward to attending university and working in clinics part time. She's unsure where she'd like to focus her medical career just yet, but she's grateful for the head start CAVIT's program has given her.
We wish all the graduating seniors the best of luck in their future careers!
The end of the school year, just before summer vacation, is a slow time for many students. CAVIT students have taken their exams, received their certificates, and graduated from their home high schools. To keep their students engaged in the final weeks of class, fire science instructor Bob DiPietro partnered with law enforcement instructor Sonny Hudson to set up a real-world emergency scenario for students to practice the skills they learned during the year.
This crash scenario involved a driver who was either drunk or distracted, a totaled car, and a manikin "passenger" trapped in the vehicle with a steel rod through the chest. While fire science students worked to save the passenger, law enforcement students investigated whether or not a crime had taken place. The scene is one our students may encounter when they enter the workforce. Mr. DiPietro explains, "This time of year, kids are all partying, going to prom, that kind of stuff. So we set up the effects of making bad choices."
While there are times the CAVIT fire science program partners with Coolidge Fire, this particular scenario was 100 percent student-run. Mr. DiPietro says, "Two of our students, who are captains, just ran the show, and we [the teachers] sat back and watched." Everything from the fire truck and equipment to the jaws of life is all owned by the school and available to the students throughout their time in the program. A local towing company provided the totaled car. "We have everything we need here," says Mr. DiPietro.
In the scenario, fire science students began by establishing a work scene, setting up, stabilizing the vehicle, and then extricating the patient. Mr. Dipietro says, "Our students absolutely love doing auto extrication. They love tearing the cars apart." Fire students used the jaws of life to remove the roof of the car. Then they cut the steel rod and moved the "patient" onto a gurney.
In the meantime, law enforcement students secured the scene, questioned witnesses, and performed a field sobriety test on the driver. Students from other programs volunteered as actors. One veterinary science student played the driver and wore goggles that simulated being under the influence. Law enforcement students then made an arrest and took the driver away.
Mr. DiPietro says, "I was in the fire service for 30 years. Car extrication is my specialty and my favorite thing—I love teaching it! I love teaching anything there is to do about fire. These students are super! What I really enjoyed in the last month or so is just sitting back and watching these guys. Watching them now teach—when they can teach the lesson back, that's when you know they have it—that's the good part."
Fire services and law enforcement work together a lot in the real world, and it's a goal among the CAVIT faculty to have more collaboration across programs. Mr. DiPeitro says, "We'll be doing a lot more of these scenarios. ...In the future, we'll do a hazardous materials scenario where an officer comes across a truck leaking, and we'll teach the students what to do."
These hands-on, student-run, real-life scenarios are the heart of a CAVIT education. Check out our programs to learn more about what CAVIT offers.
Thirty-one Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology (CAVIT) students in Coolidge, Arizona successfully completed all requirements and passed a nationally-accredited certification exam from the National Healthcareer Association. The allied health program students earned their professional credentials for healthcare occupations. The allied health certificate endorses a student’s educational background and facilitates admission into a nursing program, a continuing medical education program, or other employment opportunities in healthcare. Allied health instructor, Ms. Wendy Puffer, says, “These students worked hard through the allied health program, all while completing their high school curriculum. We designed our program to prepare students to work in healthcare immediately after graduation.” Ms. Puffer continues, “We are so proud of these students’ accomplishments, and we are excited to see the impact they’ll make in the future.”
CAVIT students who qualify for the exam could certify as an EKG technician (CET), phlebotomy technician (CPT), and/or patient care technician (CPCT). To be eligible to take the certification exams, students must graduate from high school, be enrolled in the CAVIT program, and have good attendance and good grades. In addition to the written portion of the exam, students must be able to demonstrate some practical skills. For example, an EKG technician applicant needs to have performed at least ten EKGs on live patients, and phlebotomy technician applicants must have made venipuncture draws on at least thirty different patients.
Ms. Puffer explains, “All three of these certificates will help them enhance and better understand nursing.” Five students opted to take all three examinations and all passed!
Laura Flynn, director of the career and technical education division at National Healthcareer Association (NHA), says, “Earning national certification is a great stepping stone and differentiator for students pursuing a college degree. For graduates who decide to enter the workforce after high school, certification gives them a competitive advantage over other job candidates.”
This year was not easy for the students. Ms. Puffer says, “I’m especially proud of all of my students just because of COVID. At the time, we did a lot of things virtually. We did a lot of book work and turning in homework, and then when we were finally able to get on campus, they were able to jump right into the skills, start working with the manikins, start working with our venipuncture arms, just applying what they’ve learned online and coming straight to the classroom and jumping right into it.”
Now that the students have graduated, Ms. Puffer reports that the students will continue their studies in college and in various medical capacities. In fact, one student already has a job lined up. Other students have expressed an interest in nursing, physical therapy, radiology, and ultrasound, while a few have even expressed interest in becoming doctors. Because the certifications are nationally recognized, students will be able to work anywhere, not just in Arizona.
More About CAVIT and the Allied Health Program
CAVIT offers 17 career clusters that prepare high school students for their future in the workforce. The allied health program offers students the opportunity to learn, study, and test for industry-based certifications in a number of healthcare professions.
CAVIT’s allied health program teaches students foundational knowledge while providing the opportunity to apply skills through hands-on experience. This helps students solidify their understanding of the healthcare careers they are pursuing and gives them the clinical experience necessary to enter the workforce, if desired.
Ms. Puffer says, “The program is kind of like the first steps because a lot of students aren’t sure they want to go into the medical field. So, students get a little taste of drawing blood, performing EKGs, transferring wheelchair patients to bed, bandaging, and wound care. A lot of students are like, ‘yeah, this interests me, I want to stay in healthcare’ and others will decide … ‘I don’t think this is for me.’”
The future is bright for students who complete the allied health program. Once a student has certified, there are many healthcare jobs for which they qualify. For example, graduates can work at a cardiologist’s office or in a hospital, they can work locally for a company like Sonora Quest or Lab Corp, or they can use their certifications as a starting point to get into nursing.
To learn more about CAVIT’s Allied Health program, contact Mike Glover via email.
Article by Ms. Wendy Puffer and Katie Brooks.
Thank You, Mr. Shane Blakeman!
After retiring from 30 years of law enforcement and then teaching for 30 years, Mr. Shane Blakeman is finally ready to retire permanently. Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology (CAVIT) would like to extend our heartfelt thanks and congratulations to Mr. Blakeman for spending the last eight years of his career as a CAVIT law enforcement instructor.
Mr. Blakeman began his career in the Coolidge Police Department as a reserve police officer while he attended the police academy. He subsequently spent 27 years at the Eloy Police Department. Mr. Blakeman served for 20 years on the regional SWAT team. The department soon promoted him to captain of the SWAT team followed by captain over patrol in the sheriff's department.
After retiring from law enforcement, Mr. Blakeman began teaching. He taught for 22 years at the police academy of Central Arizona College. Mr. Blakeman is a certified firearms instructor, a felony stop instructor, and a driving instructor (to name a few). In fact, Mr. Blakeman is a certified teacher in many different areas. He says, “I’ve done a lot of teaching. It’s kind of my passion. I love to teach. I love to help people get to where they want to be and help save their life, hopefully.”
On his last Friday at CAVIT, Mr. Blakeman took time out of his lunch break to give a tour of his classroom. It’s clear he is proud of the facilities at CAVIT and the equipment, for which he played an essential role in acquiring for the law enforcement program.
“That’s what I feel good about,” Mr. Blakeman says. “We (me and the other teachers), built this place into what it is—every cop I know that comes here is like, ‘Man, I wish my department had all this stuff and we could train this way.’ That’s what I’m proud of.”
CAVIT’s law enforcement program boasts of a VirTra room (virtual reality simulation training), complete with whiteboard walls where instructors can stage crime scenes and set up real-life response situations, a jail cell for corrections training, five patrol cars, a RedMan suit for defensive training, and medical equipment for trauma training including manikins, tourniquets, and Israeli bandages.
Students also learn the discipline of real police officers. Every student has a locker, a gun belt, and equipment. Class leaders in the first year and ranked students, such as the sergeant and lieutenant, in the second year, are in charge of inspecting the students every morning, just as they would do at the police academy.
And that’s not all. Students also learn negotiation, DUI training, accident scene training, breaching doors with a ram, conducting traffic and felony stops, the basics of police driving, and, of course, weapons training, where students train with the program’s airsoft guns. “We have them do the same qualifications that the police officers do,” Mr. Blakeman says. “Me and Sonny [Hudson] and the other instructors that have been here, we’re all law enforcement firearms instructors, and we teach the munitions in law enforcement, so we know how to keep it safe and no one gets hurt.”
More than the classroom facilities and training equipment, it’s clear that Mr. Blakeman is even prouder of his students.
On the walls of both the level I and level II classrooms are photos. As Mr. Blakeman talks, he walks around the rooms pointing out his favorites. One photo shows students going through a training exercise in full gear and shields. Mr. Blakeman explains, “We’re practicing officer-down rescue. [The students] have shields and guns. They’re picking up and trying to treat the officer and get him out of there.”
There are several state and national championship awards that grace the classroom walls as well. CAVIT’s law enforcement students participate in regional, state, and national competitions. Mr. Blakeman says, “We’ve qualified for nationals every year… You have to get first [place] in the state to go to nationals. We’ve done pretty well.”
Law enforcement doesn’t accept applicants under the age of 21, so CAVIT students graduate with their Arizona state security license so they can go out and get a job as a security guard. Students can also work at correctional facilities or as dispatchers. “We use radios here all the time. It sounds easy, but it’s really not,” Mr. Blakeman says. “We teach them the codes, and we put them through training events… so they are really comfortable with it by the time they go and test. ...I’ve had a couple of different chiefs call me and say, ‘The reason we hired [that student] was because they already knew how to be a dispatcher.’”
Mr. Blakeman says, “Every student we have is good. They want to be here. They have to apply to be here, and their school has to say yes, and we have to say yes, and they have to have good grades at their school. The kids are amazing. Every single one of them is just awesome.”
Mr. Blakeman is proud of the fact that CAVIT law enforcement classes often boast of 50 percent female students, where the national average is about eight to 12 percent women in law enforcement. “To me, that’s pretty amazing because we need them in law enforcement and there’s not enough of them. It’s awesome to me to see that kind of interest.”
What has been Mr. Blakeman’s proudest moment as a teacher? He can’t choose just one. Instead, he says, “What I feel good about is the students that we’ve had that have gone on and gotten jobs as police officers—we’ve had a ton of those.” With pride he continues, “[One student] won first at nationals, and he went to the sheriff’s office as a police explorer—first explorer ever to take over the explorer program. That’s kind of unheard of; it’s usually an officer at the department that runs it. He ran the explorers himself, and he ended up with his own office on the first floor of the sheriff’s office, which is kind of unheard of too. …He did a really good job. He went to work for ASU PD as a police aide and got his whole education paid for. …He’s doing great things. ...We’ve had a whole bunch of students that have gone on and done good things. That’s what makes me feel good.”
Tuesday, May 25, will be Mr. Blakeman’s last day. In retirement, he looks forward to hunting, fishing, and relaxing at his house in the mountains. CAVIT students and staff will miss Mr. Blakeman, and we wish him all the best in his retirement.
Imaginary Budgets and Real-World Learning
Chaliz Myers is a dental assistant student. She started her CAVIT journey as a junior and will graduate with her radiography industry certification right after CAVIT completion.
One of the most unique and valuable experiences offered at CAVIT are “cons.” Con is short for “conferences” and refers to specialized programs students participate in as part of their CAVIT course curriculum. During a con, community members with specialized skills lead students through practical exercises.
As a senior this year, Chaliz experienced “ConsumerCon,” a budgeting class that offered students an opportunity to plan for their future and learn the much-needed, practical skill of living within a budget. The special guest, a banker, created the exercise. Students received a budget of $4,000 and several life options. Students could “buy” a house, select a vehicle, have children, etc. Once students made their life choices, they saw how those choices impacted their budget.
The value of the experience lies, as much of CAVIT’s curriculum does, in the hands-on participation. It wasn’t just a budgeting lesson; students made choices and took responsibility for those choices. Massage therapy teacher, Sue Hansen, said, “It was a very challenging lesson for [the students]. A couple of them gave up on it. But several of them said, ‘No, before I walk out this door, I’m going to have at least an even budget.’ And they kept going back and forth, changing their choices until they made it work.”
Chaliz said ConsumerCon was a very realistic event, and it opened her eyes to the importance of budgeting and how to budget. She said, "Budgeting is your friend, and saving is important for your future."
The banker explained how even small, seemingly benign purchases can add up. He used buying a drink at Starbucks once a week as an example. Skipping that simple, once-a-week purchase could have saved the students hundreds of dollars by the end of the year.
Ms. Hansen said, “It was just a real good lesson overall and solid information for the students. And they were able to participate in the safety of the created scenario. It’s not real so they can go back and modify their choices.”
For her part, Chaliz enjoyed the information shared by our guest speaker and appreciated the resources Pinal County Federal Credit Union provides for free on their website. "I know to ask for help and advice to stick to a budget.”
William Snyder, the Career and Technical Education Specialist at CAVIT, recently walked into a CAVIT cosmetology classroom and noticed that veteran cosmetology teacher Jessica Brooks’ computer was facing backward with a manikin head placed in front of the screen. Ms. Brooks was demonstrating how to do a pin curl for her students who were attending class virtually. The placement of the manikin and the computer made executing a pin curl no easy task, but the students were able to get a close view of the technique. “She did such an unbelievably amazing job!” Snyder said, “And no one asked her to do that. That’s something she came up with on her own.”
Ms. Brooks is one of three cosmetology teachers at CAVIT. She has been a professional cosmetologist for 20 years and has been teaching for 14. Hair coloring is her favorite subject to teach. She says, “Coloring is the hardest!” But she enjoys it because she knows from her own experience how difficult it is. “I try to draw from experience and stuff from when I was in school. Like, what I didn’t understand or what I didn’t really get, and I try to explain it.”
Ms. Brooks continues explaining that students need to be able to practice in order to truly master new skills, especially in the cosmetology field. Practice is something CAVIT provides not only in classrooms but also in clinics. Clinics provide work-based learning opportunities for students to apply the skills they learn in the classrooms. Students participate in clinics as they near graduation and Ms. Brooks says, “I hope that [the clinics] provide the students with a base to be more confident on their own.”
CAVIT’s cosmetology program has 23 graduating seniors this year. So what happens once students are out of the classroom? Ms. Brooks says, “When you’re new and coming out into the field, it’s a little scarier [than the classroom experience].” So she strives to equip her graduates with life skills as well as technical skills. One of the most important lessons she tries to instill is that it’s impossible to please everyone, and she tries to teach her students how to cope when things go wrong. She explains that “the point of cosmetology school is to get [students] into the field working,” but adds that if a student has a poor experience early in their career, they may get discouraged. By encouraging life lessons in her classes, she hopes to be able to give students the tools they need to set up their clientele and have a chance at a successful career.
We wish our graduating seniors every success as they embark on their new careers!