Skip to main content

South Jordan Journal

JATC students’ experiences ignite passion for technical programs in middle school students

May 06, 2024 03:59PM ● By Julie Slama

Bingham High senior Charley Utley talks to South Jordan Middle School students about JATC’s EMT program as she demonstrates bandaging on a student. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

In South Jordan Middle School’s kiva, several hair design and barbering students told the middle school students about the Jordan Academy for Technology and Careers program from a student’s perspective. 

They talked about meeting different people and cutting or coloring their hair; they showed how to put on a cape; and how getting 1,200 hours for hair design and 1,000 hours for barbering licenses broke up their high school day and saved them money if they were to enter a cosmetology school after graduation.

They’re JATC ambassadors, eager to share about the programs they’re passionate about.

“I applied to be an ambassador because a lot of ninth graders don’t know about the program; I wanted to tell them about it first hand,” said Mylee Salazar, who is a junior at Mountain Ridge High. “I want them to have their eyes opened to this and other programs. Doing hair is something that I love to do.”

In another room, two JATC students shared their hands-on learning as an EMT and studying fire science. Middle school students learned how they were trained for emergency situations from knot tying to bandaging wounded. 

“We learn a lot of valuable skills and work with people with the same interests,” said Avery Earl, who is a Bingham High senior. “I find fire science inspiring and something cool, not scary. It’s a real profession where we’re saving lives.”

Charley Utley, who attended SJMS and now is a Bingham High senior, said they’re trained in a lot of different scenarios.

“That’s cool because we’re getting to learn it all and how we’re going to treat patients,” she said. “Even if you don’t want to be an EMT, it’s great life skills to have. I guarantee you that at least some point in your life, you’re probably going to have some type of emergency and having that background knowledge is helpful.”

Utley said when she was at South Jordan Middle, she didn’t know what her future career would be so she hopes these presentations will help others.

“If I could talk to my middle school self, I’d be exploring my options and learning about careers,” she said.

SJMS Principal Curtis Jenson, whose own children have been in JATC programs, appreciates the ambassadors telling it like it is.

“It’s better to hear from the kids because they’re taking it more seriously than from listening to adults,” he said. “These kids are the ones actually doing it and are doing a good job of talking in a way that kids believe.”

Salazar encourages students to decide and apply soon if they’re considering a
JATC program.

“Many of the programs, like the hair design and barbering, is junior and senior year so if you were to want to apply your sophomore year when applications open. You don’t want to wait because there may not be spots or you won’t be able to get in all your hours,” she said. 

JATC still has some openings in select programs for fall 2024. To enroll, go to

The ambassadors traveled to nine of the 13 middle schools in the Jordan School District talking to ninth-graders while Mountain Creek Middle students came to JATC to learn about the programs and tour the facilities, said JATC Career and Technical Education Coordinator Tami Clevenger.

JATC student Abri Jenson told SJMS students about the criminal justice program.

“Criminal justice is not just about being a cop,” she said. “It comes into forensics and it goes into the law.”

In the course, they learn self-defense to finger-printing, handcuffing to examining blood splatter.

The Bingham High senior, who has watched “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” “since I was a baby,” said television shows of criminal investigations have boosted the interest of the field. 

For example, when Abri Jenson applied to the program, she said there was 1,000 applicants for 120 spots.

“Jump on it in January right after your sophomore or your junior year because this class fills fast,” she said. “Keep going to class and getting good grades because administrators check those. They want to make sure you’re reliable and not taking up a spot of another student who would do better in the class than you.”

The JATC student is receiving 12 credits at $5 per credit, or $60, where the average cost of a credit at Utah colleges is $319.

“It’s a good deal and I can combine it with my medical training as an EMT,” she said. “I wanted to be a forensic pathologist, but we explore any career that ties into criminal justice.”

JATC students also participate in SkillsUSA and can compete in regional, state and national levels. 

“It looks good on scholarship applications and resumes for jobs and college and you’re applying what you learn in class,” the soon-to-be high school graduate said, adding that as a JATC ambassador it helps fulfill the leadership portion of a portfolio and help her earn a
JATC medallion.

Clevenger agrees with South Jordan Middle School principal’s assessment, that students listen to students.

“There’s so much going on out there, so much technology, kids tune out posters and handouts and things we used to do for years,” she said. “Before, each ambassador got 30 seconds to a minute to share, but this way, students can pick areas they’re interested, go to the session and get a taste of a couple of different programs. When other students talk about it, it builds more interest. We’ve seen an increase in our applications the past three years. We’ve changed a lot of our programs to an A/B schedule, so we can increase our capacity so twice as many can enroll. Before, some of the programs, especially hair design and criminal justice, met their cap quickly.”

JATC’s 35-plus programs extend from cybersecurity to construction management, from web design to horticulture. 

Clevenger said the programs also work well together or with their home high school’s CTE courses. Students also have set up internships within their program study.

She said that students can wait too long to focus on their career. 

“By taking JATC programs, it saves time, maybe tuition money. Maybe they don’t enter the program’s career because their life circumstances change or their interests change, but this is a good way to try something out — and it’s a way to meet some different students from around the district and outside the district,” Clevenger said. “Every student’s goals may be different; we want students to enroll in these programs and make connections to help them in their education and determine their future. λ