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Grundy Area Vocational Center
By Becky Cline

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The Grundy Area Vocational Center (GAVC), located in Morris, works with four feeder high schools in the area to provide quality educational experiences in a variety of diverse career fields. Students in the 11th and 12th grade attending Coal City High School, Gardner-South Wilmington High School, Minooka High School and Morris Community High School are offered a chance to be a part of several beneficial occupational possibilities at GAVC through elective credits from their respective high schools.

With tours beginning in eighth grade, students are introduced to the abundance of future career-related classes offered at GAVC. Affording a dozen courses in several different fields of employment, GAVC offers junior and senior students a chance to “sample” these fields through hands-on experiences. “GAVC provides opportunities for students to sample, allowing them to form an opinion about what they want to do after high school,” Lance Copes, the Director of GAVC, said.

Enrolling around 650 students in the upcoming school year, GAVC has enjoyed tremendous growth in the last several years. A host of courses are available to students interested in Automotive Technology, the Building Trades, Computer Applications, Computer Maintenance Technology, Cosmetology, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Development, Electricity and Robotics, Health Occupations or Welding.

Many of the available courses offer off-campus learning – the Building Trades course’s primary project is the construction of a house; Cosmetology students learn practical skills at the Morris Academy of Design; the Early Childhood Development course allows for off-campus learning at local child care centers, preschools and other area schools; and students in Health Occupations receive on-the-job training at several local medical institutions.

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GAVC is also equipped with in-class laboratories in order to provide even more hands-on experience – the Computer Applications and Computer Maintenance Technology courses use a variety of software applications through the institution’s extensive computer labs; Electricity and Robotics students will learn how to create a video game, wire a house, build surveillance robots and many other skills in their laboratories; and Welding students will gain knowledge of various types of welding with in-class lab work.

Through the years, students have gained positions in a number of Fortune 500 companies through internship opportunities at GAVC. “Students who really go after it in these internships have, on a regular basis, been employed right after graduation,” Copes stated.

In one recent instance, a student earned a paid internship at well-known Caterpillar, Inc., a pioneer in the manufacturing of construction and mining equipment, industrial gas turbines and several other related products and services. After his outstanding performance as an intern, Caterpillar offered him the chance to receive an associate’s degree at their Peoria campus, followed by an excellent job offer with the company.

The curriculum at GAVC is taught by those who work in these trades and careers, offering first-hand knowledge to students. “We have an outstanding staff here at GAVC,” Copes said. “The success of this institution is attributed to the counselors, school administration and the teachers who are brought in from these specific fields.”

With the collaboration between GAVC and the area’s high schools, students are able to access a wealth of knowledge to aid in their path through post-secondary education. GAVC prides itself on the opportunities afforded to students and it shows through its mission “To create opportunities for all students through challenging programs and career experiences leading to productive employment and lifelong learning.”

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