San Diego Students Get Career-Prep at Convention Center

You're 17 years old, and a senior in high school. Instead of sitting at a desk, today you're attending a conference with 10,000 experienced professionals. You're participating in an event that is usually for people whose careers are completely immersed in an industry. And at the end of the day, you take a yellow bus back to your high school with a fresh perspective.

This is the kind of experience San Diego County high school students have had recently at the San Diego Convention Center. In collaboration with Cleantech San Diego, a local organization that fosters partnerships across the private-public-academic landscape, the San Diego Convention Center has opened its doors to the local community by giving high school students opportunities with the conventions held in our facility.

Once such event was DistribuTECH, held Jan. 31 through Feb. 2. The conference and exhibition focused on technology that brings electricity and utilities from the source to the consumer. Students from SciTech High and Vista High attended educational sessions, walked the exhibit floor and met with industry professionals during the event.

"For the students it was the first time they could hear about the energy industry from experts and speak with graduate students and actual engineers," said Mr. Stephen Soderback, Vista High teacher. "It was transformational in terms of opening up their perspective on future careers and what diversity there is within the industry itself."

From left: Students Irene, Alexis and Nicholas explore an exhibitor booth at DistribuTECH.

"It's just opening a lot of new doors to the real world," said Irene, 17, a senior at Vista High. "We're seeing behind the scenes and things that we never knew before."

One week earlier, students from Southwest High's Automotive Technician Program were able to attend the National Biodiesel Conference. The biodiesel industry is all about converting organic matter into energy, a great opportunity for students to learn about sustainability.

While at the convention center, students attended a keynote speech, educational sessions and met industry professionals who shared their experiences.

"For me, this convention pertains to the future of how cars will work," said Gabriel, 18, a senior at Southwest High. "Biodiesel is sustainability. I've learned that soybeans are so important, they have more proteins that provide energy and have a lot better use of space than corn."

Southwest High students and their teacher Mr. Heriberto Sanchez showing up early for a lecture!

"This experience is really a gift to the students," said Mr. Heriberto Sanchez, Southwest High teacher. "They will be able to look back and remember this conference and what they learned."

One of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation's core values is collaboration. This partnership between San Diego County schools, our meeting and events and community partners like Cleantech San Diego, allows us open our doors to a new segment of the community.

"We are proud to host conventions that are enthusiastic about providing an educational opportunity for local students of San Diego," said Clifford "Rip" Rippetoe, CFE, President and CEO of the San Diego Convention Center. "In the future, I hope to see these students return to the same conventions as full-fledged members of their respective industries."

In addition to attending the events, students have arranged tours of the convention center to get a glimpse at the day-to-day operations. This kind of "inside look" could be what sparks an interest for a potential career in the convention and tourism industry someday.

Hospitality and Tourism Management students from Hilltop High recently stopped in for a visit with Rippetoe and our Communications Staff. They also took a tour with Director of Event Services DeeAnne Snyder.

Students were given insight on what it takes to run a world-class convention center, during the set-up process for an event. They have learned that our job is to build a small city for an organization's most important week of the year, and then take it down and prepare for a whole new event. These students have had a behind-the-scenes look at exhibit halls, kitchens and loading docks that were full of people working on constructing that small city.

In addition, convention center staff has provided tours to the University of San Diego, arc San Diego and San Diego State University's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

"Hosting these students and others is part of our efforts to invite the community to learn more about what goes on at their convention center," said Rita De La Fuente, Public Affairs Manager of the San Diego Convention Center. "The best way for anyone to understand our importance to the region is to witness the overall experience first-hand."

See photos from the tours below. If you or your organization is interested in a tour, send an email to

Alec Church's picture
Posted by Alec Church, on March 27, 2017

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