Paradise Valley High School prepares students for STEM careers

Paradise Valley High School is helping students achieve academic success in and out of high school through its unique Center for Research, Engineering, Science and Technology (CREST) program. 

Paradise Valley High School (PVHS) is ranked 44th out of 276 in the best college prep program at a public high school in Arizona, according to

According to CREST Program Coordinator Phil Howardell, CREST prepares its students for the rigorous education that awaits them in college. 

“Most CTE programs like welding or networking technologies, they’re designed to prepare students to go to work straight out of high school,” CREST Program Coordinator Phil Howardell said. “I think the biggest benefit [of CREST] is the depth of the skills and knowledge the kids get from us that when they get to college, they’re truly ready to go… A lot of times we find that what [is covered in] freshmen year courses in engineering or bioscience, we’ve already covered all those materials.”

Founded in the 2008-2009 school year, CREST offers students three programs in bioscience, engineering and computer science. All three programs are four-years long, have a map for graduation and are held in a separate building. However, according to Howardell, they are Trojans first. 

“That’s one of big selling points,” he added. “We’re a free comprehensive high school, so our kids are playing football, they’re on the badminton team, they go to basketball games, they run student government, they’re in drama… [but] we take a lot more of their electives and we require a lot more other things than other elective programs do.”

The program also has a different teaching style, providing students project/problem-based education. The curriculum is also based on work-based learning that comes from an advisory board of Valley companies including TGen, Mayo Clinic, Salt River Project (SRP) and Gannett Fleming.

According to Howardell, hands-on education creates more engaged students.

“Project- and problem-based learning has always shown that [if you] engage a student, they learn at a much deeper level because they’re actually doing something that makes sense,” he said.

To be a part of CREST, students have to apply online and have a variety of qualities including an interest in STEM; strong math, writing and communication skills; motivation to perform at a high level in rigorous academic environments; a creative and enthusiastic approach to problem solving and the ability to work in collaborative groups.

As of right now, CREST can accept 50 students per program.

“I’m hoping that we continue to expand our growth,” Howardell said. “I want us to keep innovating and doing new things and really have the kids do more impactful projects as they move through our program.”

For more information about CREST, click here

Emily Richardson

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