Guest Editorial: PCCAPS program merits school district investment
Ryan Summerlin May 13, 2014
Rick L. Monty, Park City
In reference to The Park Record’s recent article "PCCAPS May Soon Have a New Home" (4/30-5/4/2014), I wanted to personally support this capital project based on my own view and experience with this program. I believe PCCAPS (Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies) is one of the most impactful educational approaches I have ever encountered in the implementation of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) curriculums.
My son is in his fourth quarter at CAPS, experiencing the mix of academic challenge and real-world interaction that makes this program unique within PCHS classes. The curriculum in this program is challenging; however I have watched students including my son rise to the challenge in ways amazing to witness. Instead of the dryness of textbook technical concepts, CAPS exposes the students to skill building and problem solving through the execution of actual projects sponsored by actual companies. They learn not only the theory needed but also experience the dynamics of working in teams, collaborating (and occasionally clashing) in settings that most professionals only encounter after completing their college degrees and entering the workplace. As a career engineer, I can attest to how critical these types of experiences are to success in the real world. Within CAPS students are getting these lessons fully 5-7 years ahead of their future peers. Without exception, every person whom I’ve met that has visited the facility and interacted with students say that they wish they’d had access to something like CAPS when they were in school.
If this were the only advantage of CAPS, its support would be justified but it doesn’t end there. The highly fluid aspect of the project processes induce students to rely on their own initiatives and ideas. As projects develop, students must defend their concepts in presentations to experienced mentors and sponsors. Even those projects returned to the drawing board are rich with experiential value, allowing students to fall short, regroup and then sharpen ideas in a safe, non-judgmental environment. Such experiences can often be too costly if they are first encountered in the workplace after college. Engineering isn’t the only discipline encompassed within CAPS. Students in Business, Software Development and Digital Design also enjoy the benefits of this amazing preparatory process.
This program, one of the first of its kind in the country, is being supported by dozens of companies and deeply experienced professional mentors. PCCAPS is outstanding and deserves every support that can be provided. I am aware that it has been the catalyst for a decision to pursue a technical degree (or even to attend college) among students lacking the interest, motivation or the confidence prior to their CAPS involvement. There have been instances in which CAPS experience has been pivotal in college acceptance and scholarship awards. The entrepreneurial spirit within this program even led three students to their own business start-up.
Currently, this program is housed in a small, temporary space the space in the new facility is necessary for the program to continue to develop and grow as it deserves to do. As with all public initiatives, cost at this level is controversial. I would ask those who may be opposed to the capital necessary to grow this outstanding program should visit PCCAPS and witness the enthusiasm and interest among the students engaged there. As a career engineer, I place myself among those that could be called "fiscally conservative" especially when it comes to my taxes; however, I know a great investment when I see one. Please take time to learn about PCCAPS and join me in supporting it with our school board.