BULLHEAD CITY — Conversation pieces come in all sizes and shapes.
Vendors at Tuesday’s College and Career Fair offered a variety, whether it was a small tortoise, a paint-booth simulator or a Ford GT supercar.
Gina Covert, career and technical education director for the Colorado River Union High School District, said the event was designed to show students what opportunities are available for them after graduating from high school.
She said the fair was open to students “from bridge to bridge.” Attendees included students from River Valley, Mohave, Needles and Laughlin high schools along with Mohave Accelerated Learning Center, the Academy of Building Industries and CRUHSD Academy.
Vendors included colleges and universities, the armed forces and public- and private-sector employers.
Many of the booths had hand-on activities for the students to try.
Among numerous Mohave Community College booths, students could try their hands at painting a car door, using the simulator. Auto collision repair instructor Richie Mitten estimated that at least 100 tried it out during the morning session.
“Pretty much every group that walks by, at least a couple try it,” he said.
He also brought a bass guitar and a couple of skateboard decks to illustrate MCC’s custom painting classes.
The event was organized by “clusters” — vendors in similar fields were grouped together in different areas of the Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse.
Out in the parking lot, students could check out a CareFlight helicopter, a Bullhead City fire engine and the Ford GT. The latter was part of the Universal Technical Institute presence. It was a hit with students, said UTI’s Chad Ogle.
“All the students want to check it out, sit in it, hear it,” Ogle said. “Everything.”
He said the car — and “Diesel,” a dog made out of car parts — were part of UTI’s efforts to draw students to talk about careers in the transportation and motorsports industries.
He said students were receptive to the idea that they can be ready to go to work, associate degree in hand, within 18 months.
Laughlin High junior Blake Luna said he was pleased with the variety offered. He said the fair not only gave students ideas for after high school, but for after college as well.
“It was actually interesting to see all the different things in our community,” Luna said. “You wouldn’t think that there were that many things out here.”
Mohave High sophomore Diego Remy said he liked all the technical school options he saw.
Higher education options included trade schools, community colleges and universities of all sizes, from the University of Arizona, which had more than 40,000 students in 2017, to Ottawa University in Surprise, which has an enrollment of about 800.
Ottawa enrollment advisor James Gant said the school was attending the fair for the first time. He said his goal was to reach students who wanted the small-campus experience in a university setting.
“A bunch of kids signed up to receive more information,” Gant said.
Monica Vogan, president of the Arizona College Consortium, said that the decision a few years ago to combine college and career days that had been separate at the high schools has been beneficial. She said the colleges can stop in for a day and meet thousands of students.
Today is College Application Day in the CRUHSD, and many college representatives will remain in town for that event. Vogan said the setup will mean students will get to see recruiters from many of the colleges in one place.
The Bullhead City Police Department featured a couple of conversation pieces: the tortoise for its animal-control operation and a full set of bomb-squad gear to highlight the various jobs police officers do.
Dot Foods human resources coordinator Arissa Halfacre said the company was talking to students about a program that takes high-school graduates on as warehouse workers and eventually pays for them to be trained as truck drivers; the latter positions have a minimum age of 21.
The U.S. Army booth featured a chin-up bar. A Mohave High student had the best performance as of early afternoon, with 30 repetitions.
Covert said her goal for the fair was to have each student have a conversation with a college or vendor and leave feeling like his or her future is clearer.
“I want the students to have that spark,” she said. “Where they talk to a vendor and say ‘I know this is my path.’ ”