Post-secondary education programs focus on networking, civic engagement, vocational education
VERDE VALLEY – With a round of applause from close to 50 Verde Valley residents and other guests, the last of four post-secondary education discussions held by the Verde Valley Forum for Public Affairs ended Tuesday.
Now, says Town of Camp Verde Economic Development Director Steve Ayers, is when the fun begins.
“This is an action plan,” Ayers told a filled room in the Wingfield Plaza on Camp Verde’s Main Street. “I hate to go to a meeting where nothing happens … so now it’s time to get to work.”
If one word could sum up the point behind the Forum’s exploration into the role of post-secondary education in the future of the Verde Valley, it would be “communication,” said Camp Verde resident Cat Davis.
“Knowledge is power,” said Davis, who owns the Fish’s Garden with her husband B. J. Davis. “But if you don’t have access to the knowledge, it’s no good. A lot of this discussion comes back to creating a communications network that serves that goal.”
In a program summary statement provided by Eric Marcus, executive director of the Sustainable Economic Development Initiative (SEDI), the Verde Valley needs to “improve communications about post-secondary education in the Verde Valley and service map existing resources and programs. Many people in our community are not aware of what is available to them today.”
A few of Tuesday’s Camp Verde attendees cited the community’s new two-story 17,000 square foot library and how it could play a role in the area bringing post-secondary education to more people.
“That library could be such a wonderful avenue for us to help our community,” Cat Davis said. “If knowledge really is power, then that library is one of the places where that power resides.”
Camp Verde resident Marshall Whitmire added that the new library, scheduled to open Nov. 5, could be an “extraordinary venue” for programs such as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), which took up residence in Camp Verde within the past year.
More resources – but lower prices
According Marcus’s Camp Verde summary statement, costly tuitions are an “obstacle” for many Verde Valley students.
“I don’t want to hear how it compares across the country,” said Janet Aniol, the director of the Beaver Creek Transit. “I’m concerned about our community. Why are we charging high tuition when we’re paying taxes to support lower tuition?”
According to Marcus’s summary statement, the Verde Valley needs “more resources including broadband, computers and people who are knowledgeable in scholarships and financial assistance programs such as NAU’s Northern Arizona College Readiness program that has resources available to help students complete applications into any post-secondary program.”
The more rural the community, the more likely it is that its residents will struggle to have access to online courses through Yavapai College – or any college.
In Beaver Creek, the community library is also the school library. Open 16 hours each week and with a handful of computers for public access, Aniol would like to see “more computers – and of course, broadband would be helpful.”
Reaching their goals
Addressing the “challenges of students reaching their higher educational goals” is near the top of Beaver Creek School District Superintendent Karin Ward’s list of goals.
“Not just for Beaver Creek, but all across the Verde Valley,” Ward said. “In Beaver Creek, we call ourselves Creekers. We try to encourage Creekers to go back to school. Education is the only thing that cannot be taken from you.”
Former Beaver Creek School student Michael Johnson was one of close to 70 Verde Valley students who attended a Future Leaders Forum in August that was sponsored by the Verde Valley Forum for Public Affairs.
Johnson said that the Forum, held at Yavapai College’s Clarkdale campus, “went really well.”
“I was really glad to know the forums were trying to include the input of students,” says Michael Johnson, a senior at South Verde High School in Camp Verde. “I’m really glad that I participated.”
Other hot topics in Camp Verde
According to Eric Marcus’s summary statement of the Camp Verde community outreach program, the following items were also discussed and the statement was collectively agreed upon:
-The Gear Up program, which assigns a single counselor to students in the seventh grade who follows them through high school graduation, has been “extremely successful in Cottonwood and should be expanded”
-Both continuing education and adult education are an “important offering that should be expanded to include programs such as QuickBooks, Microsoft Office and other job skill training,” with courses to be taught by paid instructors “to ensure comprehensive, high quality programs.”
-Examples of programs offered through partnerships between local high schools and Yavapai College include culinary arts, fire science and healthcare.
-There needs to be a focus on the student, the student’s capacity to learn, and on building communities of learning “that meet students where they are, leveraging all of our post-secondary educational resources.”
-To make improved post-secondary education available, it is necessary to engage “local businesses together with educators to understand workforce training needs and to truly partner in providing that education.”
Hot topics Tuesday at Sedona program
At the Tuesday 8 a.m. community outreach program at the Sedona Oak Creek School District, a summary of topics discussed included:
-Connecting post-secondary educational providers and programs with incubators and accelerators such as the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology (NACET) and the Cottonwood Business Assistance Center.
-Besides college education, also consider the importance of vocational education with an emphasis on programs that lead to livable wage jobs. “Air conditioning, welding and other trades should be pursued and efforts should be made to engage local businesses who hire for these jobs,” according to Marcus’s summary statement.
-Healthcare careers are important because “we have a growing need for these jobs and they offer great opportunities to students. We should consider creating scholarships to encourage students to pursue these careers,” according to Marcus’s summary statement.
For more information, visit www.vvforum.org or http://www.aztownhall.org.