A “COOL” training gathers youth leaders
After a two-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, student officers and group mentors from Iowa’s career and technical student organizations convened in Ankeny this month for an annual leadership and skill-building training.
Sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa Career and Technical Student Organization’s (CTSO) Creating Outstanding Officer Leaders (COOL) training provided 36 youth officers the opportunity to represent seven different CTSOs, which are student organizations that enhance career and technical education (CTE) programs and provide opportunities for further skill-building in a particular field. Through CTSOs, students can participate in conferences, competitions, community service projects and other activities that can help explore career paths and build leadership qualities. CTSOs are integral to career and technical education and enrich the classroom experience through the application of skills in real-world scenarios.
“Being a CTSO officer is an opportunity to be a servant leader,” said Chris Dzurick, education consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. “The training not only allows us to showcase our student leaders but also provides ideas on how they can give back to their CTE programs.”
Members from FFA, DECA, HOSA – Future Health Professionals, Technology Student Association (TSA), Business Professionals of America (BPA), Future Business Leaders of America – Phi Beta Lambda (FBLA-PBL) and Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) met with their respective state teams in person for the training – many for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19 – to learn more about their roles as advocates and how to build team norms.
“This is a newly elected team, and the training helps us learn more about each other and our perspectives,” said 17-year-old Ames High School senior and DECA president Shrey Patel. “Understanding the team is helpful for moving forward, setting goals and achieving them.”
This year’s training was themed as “The Summit Experience” and compared building the CTSO team and its goals to a climb. The day was filled with engaging interactive exercises to help students build cohesiveness and expectations within their teams. They were also able to understand different leadership styles, practice communication skills and create a plan.
“It is extremely hands-on and interactive,” said 17-year-old Chariton High School senior and FBLA-PBL president Max Aulwes. “It doesn’t feel like you’re learning, but you are every single second of the experience.”
Leadership skill building was an important aspect of the training, and officers were very open to building their capacity as leaders.
“As a leader, I want to make sure that everyone is heard,” said Youla Tricia Onayan, a 16-year-old senior from Sioux City’s North High School and president of HOSA. “I’m not just going to be a face or name on a website. I’m going to make HOSA members have a worthwhile experience.”
From the skills learned from the CTSO COOL training, student officers are better prepared to lead their organizations in the upcoming 2021-22 school year, and they recommend CTSOs to any student looking to get involved, have fun and gain valuable employability skills.
“A CTSO is something that anyone should look into, even if they don’t know what they want to do,” Shrey said. “It can help you pick a career direction and figure out who you are and what you want to do.”