Career and Technical Student Organizations

Career and Technical Student Organizations
Posted on 05/30/2018
Mr. Denham


As we wrap up another school year in Mexico, I am pleased to reflect upon many stories of student success. We saw many firsts this year and, in many areas, students did better than they had ever done. From a state wrestling title, to new track records; higher attendance rates, fewer dropouts, more dual credits earned, multiple future college athletes, over a million dollars of scholarships awarded, outstanding performances from band, choir and drama students, and the list goes on.  It makes me proud to live and work in a small community with a rich variety of opportunities!


One area in which students work hard each year, but often operate under the public radar is our Career and Technical Student Organizations, or CTSOs. Every student enrolled in a Career and Technical Education course at Hart Career Center or their local high school is eligible to participate in a CTSO. So what are they and what do they do? One of the oldest and most recognized CTSO is Future Farmers of America (FFA). If you have visited a county fair or attended any sort of local agriculture related event, you have likely seen an FFA student in action. Other CTSOs available to Mexico and Hart Career Center students include DECA, FBLA, FCCLA, and SkillsUSA. Each of these organizations is geared toward students in a particular career path or set of paths, with SkillsUSA covering the broadest range of careers and skill sets.


So what do students in these CTSOs do? Like many other organizations or teams, there are competitive events. Students participate in individual and team contests pitting their mental and physical skills against those of other students at the local, district, state and national levels. Hart Career Center has a great legacy in competition, sending students to the national level in one or more contest annually. Last year in SkillsUSA alone, we took 15 students to SkillsUSA Nationals in Louisville, KY. Those students competed in a variety of events from Engineering, to Cosmetology and Computer Science.


While competition is certainly an important aspect of CTSOs, the other key component is leadership and job skill development. It is this feature that sets CTSOs apart from many other competitive student teams and groups. Do not misunderstand. I certainly agree that our coaches, choir and band directors provide opportunities for students to learn and practice leadership skills. I have seen this first hand and commend their work. The difference with organizations such as FFA and SkillsUSA is that the leadership and “soft skills” are explicitly taught over an extended period of time. Most of these skills, everything from public speaking and job interviews to business planning and record keeping, are directly related to success in the workplace. Students are polished, through ongoing feedback from peers, advisors and competition judges, into some of our most confident and articulate young people.


In many ways, Mexico, MO has the ideal balance. We are a small enough community to provide a nurturing, family friendly environment. On the other hand, we have enough variety of business, industry and community support to ensure great opportunities. This “small town, big opportunity” model fits our school system as well. A young person with athletic ambitions has great opportunity to train and excel in our system. Fortunately the creative, the artistic, the musical, the mechanical, the technical, the gamers, the social and the verbose can find a challenging environment to hone their skills as well. I look forward to what is to come as we turn the page on a new school year.