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South Valley Riverton Journal

Seeds of interest bloom at JATC

Jan 05, 2023 02:45PM ● By Jet Burnham

Kole Tengberg, Alyssa Hoggan and Austin Wells work on a lab experiment at the JATC. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

Mountain Ridge High School junior Sam Chelius is interested in a career in floral design, but she doesn’t have to wait until she graduates high school to get started. Chelius is taking horticulture classes at the Jordan Academy for Technology and Careers. She has been able to use the skills and knowledge to make and sell school dance boutonnieres and corsages for friends and family members.

Students take JATC courses to prepare for college and careers.

“Every student has different needs and goals,” JATC South Campus CTE Coordinator Tami Clevenger said. “Some students take a program so they can work a higher paying or more flexible job while they put themselves through college after high school. Other students want to get a taste of what a career will be like, or they may have multiple career interests they want to explore.”

Riverton High senior Kole Tengberg is interested in a medical career, but he wasn’t sure if he would really enjoy the day-to-day tasks. So, he signed up to take biotechnology and medical forensics classes at JATC. After spending half of his school days at the JATC South Campus, working in a lab environment, using lab equipment and working on real-world scenarios, he said he can see himself enjoying this type of career.

“I could definitely do this,” he said while working on a lab experiment to cut viral DNA using enzymes.

The medical forensic class, added to the biotechnology program this year, has become one of the most popular classes at the JATC South Campus.

JATC offers 27 classes which prepare students for careers and college in areas of engineering, health sciences, information technology, skilled and technical sciences, teacher education and agriculture.

Students earn high school credits in science, CTE or elective requirements as well as college credits for JATC classes. Currently, 60% of JATC’s classes offer concurrent enrollment college credits.

JATC classes take up two or four periods of a student’s schedule. Students take morning or afternoon classes at one of two JATC campuses (located in West Jordan and Riverton) and spend the other half of the day at their high school. Buses are provided to both locations from the high schools.

Many students follow their passion to the JATC.

Riverton High senior Brooklyn Ashcraft loves plants—she has about 80 at home. She hopes to turn her passion into a career in the field of ecology, studying the relationship between plants and the environment. She took a few agricultural classes at Riverton High and now attends the JATC for the more advanced and hands-on classes.

“Instead of sitting at a desk and listening to the teacher talk, you actually get to do hands-on learning,” Ashcraft said of her JATC courses.

Horticulture instructor Sydnee Roholt said students also learn the business side of the industry through real-world applications.

“We will do a lot of business concepts,” she said. “Whether students go into owning a landscaping business or a floral design as a hobby, they get real world experience.”

Students grow plants in the JATC greenhouse, selling poinsettias and cacti to the public each December and holding a flower sale in spring. They learn about pricing flower arrangements and about marketing. Horticulture students take on responsibilities as manager, marketer or planter in the greenhouse, which Roholt said prepares them for employment.

“They're learning how to hold a job and how to present themselves and how to finish tasks in a given amount of time,” Roholt said. “When they leave, they have job experience in a greenhouse.”

JATC classes also provide opportunities for students to make connections with professionals and industry representatives who are invited to be guest speakers for classes or judges for student competitions.

“We’ve had a lot of opportunities to go and tour different facilities, we usually try to do a couple of field trips and then bring in professionals as much as possible,” engineering instructor Noelle Schick said. “We’re really trying to connect students to real world engineering as much as possible, so that what they’re learning in this class is directly applicable to what they would be doing when they go on to their future in engineering.”

She said as the engineering program and its reputation has grown, more companies are approaching her to arrange internships with students, including two engineering and one drone company.

Some students don’t have to wait until the end of their program to turn their skills into a job.

Once engineering pathway students complete a CAD class, they are qualified to work as drafters, gaining experience in the field and earning a good wage as they finish high school and college. Students taking biotechnology classes earn state certifications that help them qualify for jobs. Biotechnology instructor Mary Carlson said many of her former students have gone on to internships and jobs in various related fields, such as chemistry and bioinformatics. One student took an internship in Australia. 

Even those who don’t pursue jobs in the field gain employable skills.

Schick said engineering students learn skills that are important in any career, such as working with a team, creative problem-solving, presentation skills and confidence.

“By the end of the class, I want to build their confidence in being able to solve any problem by knowing where to look for the resources and figuring out that they are capable of solving problems,” Schick said.

Schick left an engineering career to become an engineering teacher at the North Campus.

“I really like engaging with the students,” she said. “And I think engineering is a really fascinating field of study because you get to learn about the world around you and how it works. So I love transferring that excitement about understanding how things work to the students and seeing them get excited to learn about it, as well, and apply what they’re learning about the world around them to make it better.”

Many JATC faculty members have real-world experience in their subjects in addition to their teaching certificate. South Campus Principal Sonja Burton-Juarez said this is what sets JATC classes apart from CTE classes offered at high schools.

“Really, the main difference is that most of our teachers come from industry occupations,” she said. “They have worked in a chosen profession, and they have chosen to come and teach our students. They want to share their real-life knowledge with our students.”

The JATC’s faculty includes fire sciences instructors who work for Unified Fire Authority, hair and nail instructors who own their own salons and aviation teachers who are pilots. There are health science, criminal justice and engineering instructors who worked in the professional field before becoming teachers. 

While some introductory CTE courses are offered at high schools, the JATC offers introductory and advanced courses. For example, the introductory Engineering Principles class is offered at three Jordan District high schools with the same curriculum. However, JATC students have access to high tech equipment including laser cutters, and, thanks to generous parent donations, several 3D printers, including PLA, resin and (in the near future) carbon fiber printers for the 3D design assignments. 

“They can create a product and then actually see it, from green models on their screen to an actual part,” engineering instructor Amber Saffen said.

The JATC offers advanced engineering pathways in aerospace and drones, architecture, civil engineering and construction, or robotics and electronics for students who want to get more technical knowledge in specific fields.

“Kids who come to the JATC, a lot of them have a very clear idea of what they want out of the experience and I really love facilitating that,” Saffen said. “They know what they want but they don’t always know how to get there, so I love being able to give them the resources, and set them on the path, and help them figure out the in between steps to get to where they want to go.”

Adilynne Hagen, a senior at Riverton High, fell in love with engineering at the JATC. She is taking aerospace and robotics classes.

“I've always really liked to work with my hands,” she said. “My dad was a mechanic and so I really was into mechanical engineering, so I wanted to see if I actually liked engineering or if it was just a random thought that I had. Once I came to the JATC, I fell in love with it.”

Some of her favorite hands-on projects have been converting a drone into an RC car and designing a “Back to the Future” themed playground. 

JATC students have the opportunity to submit their classroom projects for student association competitions.

 Clevenger said JATC students usually place in the top three at state and top 10 in nationals in these competitions.

Last year, 25 JATC students went to TSA nationals, four went to SkillsUSA nationals and six went to HOSA nationals. JATC students swept the Nail Technician categories, placed first in Game Design and took top awards in Web Design at the SkillsUSA state competition. At Educators Rising, they earned five first place spots at state and had three students finish in the top 10 at nationals. The JATC robotics team won TSA state and national competitions. And a JATC student placed third in the nation for her FFA agriscience fair project.

Like a high school, JATC has student leadership positions (called ambassadors) and school activities. Both campuses recently hosted a Halloween carnival and holiday activities such as turkey bowling and Christmas ornament decorating. The nails and hair design students demonstrate their skills with a fun halloween-themed showcase in the fall and a fashion show in the spring. Landscape architect students design a haunted house in the fall.

Applications for all JATC courses for the 2023-24 school year will be given equal consideration when received between Jan. 3 and Feb. 28. Applications and more information can be found at

There will be a JATC open house held Jan. 26 from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the JATC North Campus at 9301 S. Wights Fort Road in West Jordan, and at the JATC South Campus at 12723 S. Park Avenue in Riverton. Parents and students can check out the campuses, tour the classrooms and speak with the instructors.

JATC staff members and student ambassadors work with middle school and high school counselors to get the word out to students about what the JATC offers with middle school expos and the annual open house.

“It’s always a shame when we talk to seniors and they're like, ‘Oh, I would have been in pharmacy tech if I would have known, but I had no idea,’” North Campus CTE Coordinator Mandi Jensen said.

Side bars:

JATC open house

Jan. 26 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

At both JATC campuses: 

North Campus 9301 S. Wights Fort Road in West Jordan

South Campus 12723 S. Park Avenue in Riverton.

Applications for 2023-24 courses are due by Feb. 28. Go to for program information.