February is Career & Technical Educational Month throughout Pennsylvania, and a special month at the Carbon Career and Technical Institute in Jim Thorpe.

It is a month of activities inside the newly renovated building as the students prepare for its celebration event, the Unlock Your Dreams Expo on March 1, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The combination open house, career expo, and art show is focused on Carbon County's eighth and ninth grade students and their parents, offering them an opportunity to explore CCTI.

The last phase of CCTI"s $19 million expansion is scheduled for completion by the start of school for the 2011-12 session. While most of the school is already relocated to their new facilities, some of the shops such as the welding, automotive and precision machinery won't be relocated until this summer.

There's a new drafting program scheduled to begin in the fall.

"It's a course that will include architectural drafting, civil drafting, and mechanical drafting," explained Dave Reinbold, Administrative Director at CCTI who, for the past months, has coordinated tours to the school to interest prospective students in the program. "We are at the point where we want to start looking at applications and seeing how many students plan to enroll."

The Unlock Your Dreams Expo combines a tour of CCTI, a Career Expo, and an Art Show, giving students in eighth and ninth grade the opportunity to decide if they want to study at CCTI. Tours of the technical and academic areas, including displays, presentations, and opportunities to ask questions to instructors will help the students make that decision.

For students interested in entering the construction trades, representatives of a dozen Pennsylvania unions will discuss their apprenticeship programs.

"They are great programs because they give them the basic training that they need to become journeymen in that field," noted Peggy Kalogerakis, Coordinator of School Improvement at CCTI.

The Expo is coordinated by Marketing Instructor Stephanie Barto.

"I don't think it is ever too early to learn about potential careers and what avenues are available to you," she said. "One of the biggest concerns that parents face today is the high cost of college. There's a technical school right in their own backyard offering a lot of these courses and a great foundation for students to come in during their high school years with no charge to them. They can come to the Expo and find out first hand if this is something they are interested in.

"Many of our students go on to higher education with college credits already earned, because many of our programs articulate into several colleges and universities," she continued. "Also a good portion of our students go right into the workforce because they have the training and the skills that employers are looking for."

Barto has charged her marketing students with helping to assure a good turnout for the Expo.

"My students have to produce a formal invitation and invite five people other than school students here," she said. "That's five people times 28 kids-that will bring in a decent amount of people."

The final piece of the Expo puzzle is an art show-students in the Michelle Klock's Graphic Design class will have an art show with student's works available for purchase.

If you want to learn more about Carbon Career and Technical Institute, mark your calendar for Tuesday evening, March 1 from 5 - 8 p.m. CCTI is located at 150 West 13th Street in Jim Thorpe.

For information call: (570) 325-3682.