Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Magnet Students Find Competition and More in SkillsUSA

Posted 03/06/2009 by Lauren Abrams

The career and technology organization SkillsUSA intends to make an impact on TJ’s students.

skillssmallTJ is always striving to adopt dynamic programs in which students can participate and excel. Thanks to its DECA Business Club, TJ has become one of the top competitors in the state. Hoping to follow in DECA’s footsteps, the TJ Computer Magnet has recently joined the SkillsUSA program, so more students now have the opportunity to compete in other areas of interest, such as 3D-Animation, Photography, Computer Programming, Video Production, and Web Design.

SkillsUSA has come a long way since it was created in 1965. Its original name was VICA (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America), and was founded by a group of students and teachers who were serious about their professions, and saw a need for more training in the areas of leadership to compliment their chosen vocation. “There are huge shortages being forcast for the highly skilled work force of the future. This club is helping to produce students for high paying jobs in those areas. So I’m excited about this opportunity for our students,” said Computer Magnet Director Matt Spampinato.

Today, SkillsUSA has more than 300,000 new students and instructors join the club annually. Thomas Jefferson High School has agreed to take part in this mission to better America’s skilled work force. The organization focuses on helping each student excel in leadership, teamwork, citizenship, and character development.

In the SkillsUSA program, students have the opportunity to compete against each other in local, state, and national competitions in which they can demonstrate their occupational and leadership skills. “SkillsUSA is a great opportunity for kids to show their skills in an area of technology of their choice,” said TJ Computer Magnet Teacher Jerry Esparza, who is a 3D-Animation teacher for the computer magnet program at TJ.
“A friend of mine from college has been involved with SkillsUSA for five years. He was the one who introduced me to the whole organization. From there I had one of the state coordinators talk to my students about the program, and they all seemed to like the idea,” said Esparza.

Once the concept was presented to the Magnet teachers at TJ, everyone agreed it was a good investment for the school. “The teachers collaborated to decide if the program was fit for TJ, then we began to recruit students to become members,” said Esparza.

One of the reasons TJ joined SkillsUSA was to satisfy the requirements of the Career and Technology Education Department (CTE), of which the Computer Magnet is a part. “It’s one of the requirements of CTE, and it’s a good one. They want us to belong to a career and technology student organization so that our students can get real-world competition experience while they showcase their talents. This is going to help take Computer Magnet to the next level,” said Spampinato. With teachers and students on its side, Spampinato is hoping that SkillsUSA will become one of TJ’s crown-jewel programs.

One of the Computer Magnet students shared his excitement for the future competition. “I think it’s great that I’ll be able to compete with other students from the city and possibly be recognized by the nation,” said 3D-Animation Competitor Ryan Mestas.

Any students who are interested in participating in this state and national charter are required to pay a $16.50 fee. There are additional fees to participate in state and national competitions. The structure of the student organization has also been carefully planned out. “We’re going to hold student elections and there will also be formal meetings as well as fundraising opportunities. Community service projects will also be a part of the experience,” said Spampinato.

Any student who is interested in joining should speak to a computer magnet teacher of his/her choosing.