Students get hands-on experience in SUNY-Canton visit

On the morning of Oct. 18, 250 high school students descended on the campus of SUNY-Canton to see what college life is all about.

Sponsored by CFES Brilliant Pathways, the event fits in with the organization’s strategy of familiarizing high school students with college settings, where they can see the interesting work that’s being done by students who aren’t much older than them.

For some of these students, it was their first time setting foot on a college campus. For others it was old hat as they go from school to school deciding where they will work toward a degree. And for SUNY-Canton, it was a chance to wow the kids with their programming and amenities.

Changing face of education

The visit also highlighted some post-pandemic truths about the changing face of education. Rather than listen to lectures and sales pitches, students got hands-on experience, including  taking vitals on mannequins in the nursing department, bandaging limbs in veterinary science, building and racing model cars in engineering and learning hacking techniques in cyber security.

It reflects growing student interest in working with their hands and pursuing careers that might allow them to start their own businesses.

Melissa Evans, executive director of enrollment, said it shows students the overlap in classroom academics and vocational trades. “Here at SUNY-Canton they are not mutually exclusive,” she said.

College still makes sense

Another message — as students have become wary of debt and more interested in fast-tracking their way to a regular paycheck — is that a college career is still the way to a better and more financially secure life. “We want them to know that higher education is affordable and worth it,” Evans said.

In the nursing department, Assistant Professor Christine Brassard told high school students that jobs are plentiful across multiple nursing disciplines, and the job can be difficult but rewarding and exciting.

During the 1998 North Country ice storm that knocked out power throughout the region, Brassard said she had to apply IVs in the dark, holding a flashlight in her teeth. “This is not a Barbie doll profession,” Brassard said. “We are nurses; we like to fix things.”

Prior to enrolling, she urged students to focus on time management, organization and writing skills. “Working hard now will make it easier later,” she said.

The college features high-tech mannequins with a variety of maladies and conditions, and a mock-up of a real hospital floor complete with nursing station, trauma room and medical machinery that is typical of a hospital environment.

In the veterinary science department, Lydia, a CFES Scholar, said she was impressed with the variety of programming and the campus in general as she plans her career moves. “This will help me figure out what I want to do next and introduced me to what college will be like.”

School lifestyle impresses

Aiden, a high school sophomore, said he has not settled on a career choice, but he was impressed with the campus lifestyle including the dorms and the 24-hour gyms where students can work out at any time.

Some students were sold when they learned the campus had its own Starbucks.

Still, for many, college is a big leap, a leap that SUNY-Canton tried to make less intimidating. “You reach a certain point where the shyness goes away,” said Brassard as she prodded students as to why they wanted to be nurses. “And then when it goes away, you become you.”