Superintendent Tracey Lopeman cuts the ribbon on office space at Maricopa High School, where Central Arizona College will set up CAC Connect: (from left) MHS senior Freya Abraham, Bernadette Russoniello, City Councilmember Rich Vitiello, MUSD board member Patti Coutre, City Councilmember Marvin Brown, Lopeman, MUSD board member Torri Anderson, CAC President Jackie Elliott, Principal Brian Winter, CAC board member Dan Miller, CAC outreach coordinator Monica Vogan and CAC Director of Student Affairs Megan Purvis. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Central Arizona College launched its new partnership with Maricopa High School in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

CAC Connect gives the college office space in the high school’s Career and College Center so CAC advisors and recruiters can meet with students on their own campus.

Speaking directly to the high school students attending the opening event, CAC President Jackie Elliott said the college “is happy to enhance your learning experience and assist you in pursuing your academic goals through higher education. CAC Connect will provide you a true learning community, and we look forward to seeing this program grow throughout Pinal County.”

Monica Vogan, outreach coordinator for CAC, said the program will allow CAC to help students explore educational options, apply online and register for classes.

“It’s incredible what we can accomplish when we actually come together,” said Bernadette Russoniello, MHS College and Career coordinator. “This started as a sit-down, brief meeting where we said, ‘How can we do it better?’

Principal Brian Winter pointed out MHS is the first high school in the county to have that kind of connecting program.

“We are proud to pioneer such a unique program, one that will bridge high school resources with college resources in one easy to access package for our Maricopa students,” he said.

CAC student Rebekka Harris said CAC Connect will be a great way for the college to have impact and recognition within the school. “When I was actually a student at MHS, I didn’t know about CAC until the semester before graduation and I was panicking.”

CAC students Rebekka Harris, Elizabeth “Mimi” Prentice and Timonyeh Shines

She first attended CAC to become a teacher but realized about halfway through her studies that was not the path she really wanted. Changing majors, she said, felt like less of a blow at CAC than it would at a huge university.

Timonyeh Shines, a CAC graduate now starting at ASU, said CAC Connect would have been a better influence on her younger siblings as they went through high school but are currently not in college.

“CAC has been a wonderful, wonderful school to attend,” said Shines, who did not attend high school but earned her GED to qualify for college. “I feel like if they had had this opportunity, they would have been along the path that I am on now. I’m really happy this is part of this high school so it can influence other people to actually attend.”

Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said the program helps the district achieve its first board-adopted goal: “Every student graduates prepared to create, innovate, lead and succeed.”

MHS students were part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
CAC President Jackie Elliott
MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman
MHS Principal Brian Winter in front of the CAC Connect cubicle.