After nearly five years, Southern Oklahoma Technology Center has completed all its expansion projects included in a $8.5 million bond issue.

The ribbon-cutting for the Health Careers West building signified the completion of the final project. The bond issue was approved by voters from the technology center's 16 partner school districts in November 2008.

"The bond issue is spent. The five-year expansion plan is finished," said superintendent David Powell. "Now, it's all about maintaining what we've got."

During the past five years, the SOTC campus has grown 30 percent larger in both square footage and enrollment.

The Health Careers West building will be the main home for the full-time therapeutic services pathway. Students have been utilizing the facility since August.

"This will be a good place to start, whether a student wants to be a veterinarian or pharmacist, it's all the same basics," said instructor Toni Carrell.

The new building allows a total of 120 more students to study health careers. The existing nurse assistant program added 30 spots to each of the two years.

A therapy technician major will be added, with 30 students in each year. It will include courses for physical therapy aide, occupational therapy aide and athletic training aide.

"Health care has many different options. Students have differing interests, so we are giving them options to different health paths," explained Alisha Mason, health programs director. "We are creating multi-skilled students who will be more of an asset to their employer."

Students in the health career program will graduate with up to five certifications. High school students will now be able to earn anatomy and physiology course credit.

"Students can go to work at that level," Mason said. "They are better prepared to fill entry-level jobs and receive additional pay. The experience will also help them as they move onto the college setting."

No matter what a student decides to study in college, the program is still a benefit for a college student.

"They can work a job other than fast food while in college," said instructor Becky Lyle.