By Seth Boyum
This semester, the CTECH/STEM Center has opened for the first time. Located next to the Heintz Center, the facility is designed to help prepare high school students for college and work in CTECH/STEM-related fields.
Owing its origins to Collaboration Among Rochester Educators (CARE), the Heintz Center had been holding health science classes for high schoolers, until space issues forced them, with the assistance of the Mayo Clinic, to lease alternative facilities from IBM.
“We knew it was a model that was working well,” said Michelle Pyfferoen, RCTC’s Dean of Career and Technical Education and Business Partnerships.
The new building was planned by CARE to provide a permanent base for the program and to expand it to include other CTECH/STEM subjects, as would be of benefit to the community. This plan was started about a decade ago, with RCTC, WSU, the Rochester Public Schools system, Workforce Development Center, the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, and the city of Rochester itself acting as partners and collaborators in the undertaking.
Taxes, collected in 2012, were used in part to fund the construction of the center, which began last year. The use of tax funding was important.
“So, you oftentimes have resources that focus on higher ed, and you have resources that focus on K12, and to blend those two, to find a source of funding, was difficult,” Pyfferoen said. “And so that’s why the city, the extension of the sales tax, was a good source of funds, because it’s serving the needs of this community.”
The decision to expand to a full building instead of a new wing to the Heintz Center was decided because of zoning and to allow space for classes related to non-medical careers. Of the seven programs offered, hospitality, health sciences, and manufacturing courses are currently housed in the CTECH/STEM Center, with the others held in the Heintz Center proper.
In addition to preparing high schoolers for higher education and careers in the community, the CTECH/STEM Center and Heintz Center will be sharing equipment across education programs. The CTECH/STEM Center program is currently running this fall in their first semester.