Since today is the last day of CTE Month, we’re highlighting career and technical student organizations – or CTSOs.
Arlington ISD’s career and technical education program is all about providing future-building opportunities for students, and often those include opportunities that extend beyond the classroom.
That’s certainly the case with all the district’s many CTSOs. These organizations offer students the opportunity to learn a host of real-world skills, improve teamwork and engage in competition with other schools.
“CTSOs provide unique programs of career and leadership development, engaging and competitive activities, classroom enrichment with extended learning and well-deserved student recognition for their talent and hard work,” said Susan Patterson, Arlington ISD director of career and technical education.
With a wide variety of organizations to choose from, from agriculture to robotics to business and more, there is something for everyone. While these organizations are fun for students while they are in them, their impact is serious, lasting and life-changing.
“CTSO organizations are a gateway to finding community, creating a network that reaches beyond the walls of the organizations and finding friendships that will last a lifetime,” said Dakota Lindemulder, an Arlington High School grad who is now a Texas A&M sophomore studying agricultural economics.
Building a Future
Lindemulder’s CTSO when he was a high school student, Future Farmers of America – or FFA – is a great example of the impact on students.
Sponsored by the district’s ten agricultural science teachers, Arlington ISD’s FFA has 160 student members from all district high schools. FFA gives members the opportunity to apply what they learn in their ag science courses and exhibit chickens, rabbits, goats, lambs and cattle. Plus, FFA students participate in competitions on leadership development, career development and public speaking.
“FFA impacts me by making me a more responsible and social person,” said Ismael Plata, a junior at Arlington High. “Some things that I have gained are educational opportunities, leadership skills and work ethic. Through the FFA I have shown a goat, heifer, ag mechanics, and I helped another student show their market broilers at the county show.”
The impact extends beyond the animal arena and helps create well-rounded individuals. FFA helps strengthen time management skills, work ethic and responsibility as well as employability skills for all careers, ag-related or not.
“I would not be the person I am today without the hard lessons, rewarding successes and valued mentors that I experienced during my time in the FFA,” Lindemulder said. “These organizations are one of the stepping stones into adulthood and finding your place in this world.”
Lindemulder is just one of many Arlington ISD students who have benefited from FFA.
“We have had numerous former students who have gone on to be agriculture teachers, breeders, city council members, school board members and lawyers who continue to be involved and back the mission of what FFA is about,” said Kristin Clark, Martin High School ag science teacher and FFA sponsor.
Rabbits to Robots
While some students raise rabbits, others build robots. The district’s robotics clubs compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition, which bills itself as the ultimate sport for the mind. The student teams design, manufacture and build a robot that competes with other teams throughout the state.
“Robotics is very useful to the students because it allows them to apply in-demand real-world skills primarily in the areas of design, manufacturing, engineering and programming,” said Kevin Knierim, an entrepreneurship instructor at the Dan Dipert Career and Technical Center and the lead mentor for one of the CTC’s robotics teams. “Students are able to apply these skills directly in the workforce or it prepares them for STEM-type degrees.”
One of the most impactful elements of robotics competition isn’t specifically about STEM. It’s about learning to work together with others. It’s about teamwork.
“It is not a group of students working on individual competitions,” Knierim said. “It is truly a team where all the parts work together. In addition, we are able to incorporate a variety of pathways. We have engineering, manufacturing, programming, business and even cosmetology students involved in the different aspects of the team.”
Future business leaders
Teamwork applies in business, too – just one of the many skills that students involved in business CTSOs, like Future Business Leaders of America and Business Professionals of America, are learning.
“FBLA is a club that allows students to discover their future,” said Martin High School junior and FBLA president Austin Utsumi. “It’s an amazing club that has dramatically impacted students by providing them with the necessary public speaking skills to succeed in the future, socializing/networking opportunities and a comfortable environment in which they always feel comfortable.”
FBLA is designed to expose students to various facets of business and teach basic business principles, develop leadership and help foster a post-graduation plan. It does much of this through academic competitions – which Arlington ISD students excel at.
“Last year, all of our members (around 40) placed and made it past both area and state competitions, which is a huge accomplishment!” Utsumi said. “We even had half of our competitors (around 20) compete at the national level in Chicago! This year we’re hoping to achieve the same goal and create everlasting memories with each other.”
Business, BBQ and Beyond
Whether it’s ag, robotics, business or barbecue – yes, BBQ – or health sciences or welding or public safety or education – there are CTSOs for every student. And every one of them is giving students opportunities – opportunities to learn, to grow and to lay the foundation for a successful future.