Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Leading the Way with SkillsUSA

Posted 11/14/2016 by Baxter Stein

SkillsUSA Officers attend the Fall Leadership Conference. photo by Jerry Esparza

The Spartans in SkillsUSA are in the midst of another successful year of learning and competition.

SkillsUSA is a nationwide organization dedicated to setting up students for careers in business, technology, and trade. SkillsUSA is made up of over 300,000 students and instructors, with over 13,000 schools involved. The TJ chapter of SkillsUSA is led by web design and 3D animation teacher Jerry Esparza, and consists of dozens of students from the CCT magnet program. These students do community service work, develop professional skills, organize fundraisers, and work in public relations. The team not only utilizes SkillsUSA to prepare themselves for the future, but they also have to compete against other SkillsUSA teams from all over the nation in technology related challenges.

One event that the team participated in was the Fall Leadership Conference, which took place in September. Leadership programs from all around Colorado gathered at Johnson and Wales University in Denver to work on team building and leadership skills. TJ’s SkillsUSA team attended the conference, and learned a lot about responsibility and leadership from the speakers that were present. Junior Katie Schroeck, a SkillsUSA officer, said, “The Fall Leadership Conference gave me the opportunity to gain communication and leadership skills that will help me as an officer, and I hope to go back next year to gain even more skills.” However, leadership events like these are only some of the many activities SkillsUSA activities throughout the year.

A major part of SkillsUSA is the regional competition that the team participates in every spring. TJ’s team tackles three categories: web design, photography, and 3D visualization and animation. In web design, students compete in website creation skills and they are judged on programming and aesthetic. Students compete as teams of two to code a website and make the interface user friendly. In photography, unlike web design, students compete individually. The competitors have to submit two photos prior to the competition; however, they still must take photos on-site to be judged in the competition. Not only are they judged on the photos themselves, but they also are required to show skills in photo editing and lighting. The third and final event that TJ’s SkillsUSA squad will compete in is 3D visualization and animation. Students in groups of two must create 3D images and an animated short based on a given prompt. But, in order to compete, students must first submit a written exam on the subject matter. After completing all of the required entries, teams are scored on design, ingenuity, and technical knowledge.

TJ’s SkillsUSA team has consistently been a force in the technology related competitions, dominating all three categories last year. “Once the kids become skilled in the technology they need to be skilled in, I help the kids to start thinking outside the box, [to] be innovative, [to] be more creative,” Esparza explained. The team of students are excited to compete, with Esparza’s advisement and their own will power to guide them to victory.

With regionals coming up in early 2017, there is much more learning, preparation, and community service to be done. Members of the team are preparing not only for the upcoming competitions, but for their careers and adult lives.