Building Bridges is returning to Newton High School from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 24, but this time around it's getting a fresh new twist. The NHS Career and Technical Education program event is expanding this school year, with an Experiential Learning Day being added as part of the activities in order to fully engage all of the high school students.

While Building Bridges started as an event focused on highlighting the pathways/training opportunities offered through the CTE program and partnership potential with local businesses, this year the focus is more career-oriented and highlighting what opportunities are out there for students.

Students earning industry certifications will still be recognized in an awards ceremony and a free meal will be catered by Flint Hills Technical College and NHS culinary students, but the presentation of the CTE program's 17 different pathways will be a little different.

Last year, parents, students and community members toured the entirety of the CTE facilities. To better capture the attention of attendees and illustrate the opportunities tied to each pathway, stations will be set up at each — with local business partners (like Millennium in machining and Build-Pride in woods) being featured at the stations to help highlight potential future paths.

"We want parents and students in the community to not only see the classroom area ... but also see what the possibilities are," said CTE director and NHS assistant principal Blake Smith. "We want to help prepare them (students) for life after high school. If they can kind of see the possibilities after high school, then maybe they'll take more classes that we offer while they're still here."

Expanding Building Bridges with the Experiential Learning Day was an effort made to reach as many students as possible, with Smith noting all 1,000 students at NHS will be part of that during the normal school day on Oct. 24.

The idea behind the Experiential Learning Day is to expose students to the career opportunities available in the Newton area — as well as how those might tie to the CTE pathways/certification opportunities available at NHS — through tours of local businesses and small group discussions with NHS graduates.

"It kind of came about because we have all these career and tech ed pathways — we offer 17 different pathways. Even the high schoolers, a lot of them don't even fully understand what we offer," Smith said, "so we're thinking if we're able to open their eyes to what's out there then maybe we'll get more of them signing up for our career and tech ed classes."

Businesses partnering on the tours include AGCO, Budde Enterprises, Excel, Bethel College and more, while alumni speaking range from multimedia journalists to psychologists to Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay. Keynote speaker Vince Bertram, president and CEO of Project Lead The Way, will also be speaking to the NHS students. Wanting to offer a well-rounded day, students will also be doing community service as part of the Experiential Learning Day.

From the speakers and the tours, Smith said the idea is to illustrate to students both what career opportunities are out there in the community and what it might take to pursue that path if it is of interest to them.

"What we want the students to see is not only how the business runs, but also what kind of education does it take to work for that business and why did the people get into that line of business. What we're trying to do is show the students what are the possibilities if you want to stay in Newton," Smith said. "We have a lot going on here and we want to make sure the kids know what the opportunities are."

NHS students will participate in the Experiential Learning Day on Oct. 24 and the Building Bridges event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. that same day at the high school, 900 W. 12th St.