Cara Christensen, far left, and her project partner Mitchell Elliott speak with Utah Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, Gov. Gary R. Herbert and educational advisor
Cara Christensen, far left, and her project partner Mitchell Elliott speak with Utah Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, Gov. Gary R. Herbert and educational advisor Tami Pyfer about their graphic design project for Black Diamond Gymnastics on Thursday, May 15. (Christopher Reeves/Park Record)
The Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies was bustling with students preparing for a visit from Gov. Gary R. Herbert Thursday, May 15. Program director Jennifer Jackenthal said she believes the PCCAPS program is something that could be implemented statewide and wanted to show the governor why by sharing what students and businesses have accomplished over the last school year.

The PCCAPS courses are for high school juniors and seniors in the areas of business, engineering, interactive design and software development. Students work with businesses and entrepreneurs to create professional products.

"I want to tell him this is a worthwhile program, because it has been really hands-on and you learn stuff in this class you would never learn in a traditional classroom," said Dylan Gillette, a senior at Park City High School taking the marketing and business class at PCCAPS. "I think it's really valuable information to have in the future when we're looking for jobs, because it's much more applicable than what you learn in a classroom."

Park City School District Board of Education President Maurice "Moe" Hickey said he believes the program ties in great with Herbert's "66 by 2020" education goal, to have 66 percent of adults in Utah have certificates or degrees by the year 2020.

Herbert, Utah Rep. Kraig Powell (R-Heber City), Sen.


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Kevin Van Tassell (R-Vernal) and Herbert's educational advisor, Tami Pyfer, walked into PCCAPS and immediately spoke with Jackenthal. She explained to him the nature of the program and took him on a "tour" of the projects students are currently working on.

The program and its unconventional approach to education intrigued Pyfer, who agreed with Hickey that PCCAPS seems beneficial to the governor's "66 by 2020" vision.

"I definitely want to learn more about it and find out how this meshes with what is happening in the high school with their Career and Technical Education courses," she said. "I would like to find out more about their community partners and those kinds of things. It looks very exciting."

Jackenthal walked Herbert over to the engineering area where Brett Monty, a junior at Park City High School, was controlling a robot with a remote control. The project he is working on is a bomb-detecting robot for Hill Air Force Base. Herbert decided to try his hand at controlling the robot and spoke with Monty about the project.

"It's really cool to get to talk to the governor about what's going on here, especially because he is someone who can really influence policies and whatnot," Monty said. "If I went and got an internship, normally I would be filing papers or sharpening pencils, so this program really gives you a chance to experience different career fields and see what you might want to go into."

Van Tassell stood in the main area speaking with a student who said he was thinking of going into the Armed Forces after high school. He said he was impressed with the students and the preparation for the "real world" they are receiving at PCCAPS.

"I'm finding as I interview job candidates at my office that we are graduating people, but we are not graduating skills for getting that first job," he said. "I think this helps get that done, and it would be good if we could duplicate it in every district."

The senator added that the hardest thing to do at the Capitol is to start a new program and find new money for it. However, if it is "the right program," new money can be found to try and implement the program across the state.

Herbert spoke with several other students, including Taylor Porges, a PCHS junior who aspires to attend the U.S. Naval Academy after graduation. Porges is working with Rockwell Collins, a company that works with the military to create simulations.

Mitchell Elliott and Cara Christensen also spoke with the governor about their graphic design project for Black Diamond Gymnastics. Herbert said he was impressed not only with the projects the students had produced but with their ability to speak eloquently about them.

The governor left PCCAPS feeling invigorated about the positive effects implementing the program across the state could have on creating competitive job-seekers in the future.

"They are learning the real world application of what they are learning in class and how to sell your case, find a way to market what your ideas are and convince a board of directors, school board or city council that this is the way to go," Herbert said. "If we can replicate this program in the other 40 school districts across the state, we would in fact raise the bar significantly when it comes to creating new business entrepreneurs, people who can think outside of the box using creativity and will be better prepared to compete in a real world marketplace."