Annual training aims to build student leaders
Nearly 50 student leaders kicked off the start of their official state officer duties at an annual training at the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny recently.
Held each summer, the Creating Outstanding Officer Leaders (COOL) training brought together newly elected state officers and advisers from Iowa’s eight career and technical student organizations (CTSO) for a full day of leadership training, skill development and networking. Interactive, hands-on learning exercises throughout the day kept the participants engaged and focused on this year’s theme of “Building Better.”
“The COOL training emphasizes the building blocks needed to be a state leader,” said Chris Dzurick, education consultant for the Iowa Department of Education. “This can include building the brand, the chapter, the team and their vision for having the best CTSO for the upcoming year.”
CTSOs enhance career and technical education (CTE) programs and provide opportunities for students to apply the skills they have developed in classrooms through conferences, competitions, community service events, worksite visits and other activities. More than just an extracurricular activity, participation in CTSOs can help students explore potential career paths, make connections in the community and strengthen desirable soft skills, such as communication, organization, time management and more.
“There is no doubt that being a part of a CTSO helps with professional skills,” said 18-year-old Mary Ann Fox, FFA north central state vice president and freshman at Iowa State University. “I look back and think what I would’ve been like if I weren’t a part of FFA. It has helped with job interview skills, leadership and how to interact with others that aren’t like you.
“It opens your eyes to the professional world at an earlier stage.”
This year’s COOL training marked the first year that all eight CTSOs were represented. Students from FFA, DECA, HOSA-Future Health Professionals, Technology Student Association (TSA), Business Professionals of America (BPA), Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), SkillsUSA and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) were all in attendance to learn more about being a state leader, and each member found something that resonated with them during the day.
“For me, the best part of the training has been learning more about myself,” said 17-year-old Coilee Hynek, BPA secretary/treasurer and senior at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids. “It gave me an opportunity to see my value and showed me how to make not only myself better but also my organization.”
Iowa’s student leaders learned many new tactics at the training to help them with their organizations and chapters for the upcoming school year – and they had a good time doing it.
“My favorite activity so far has been building the balloon tower,” said 17-year-old Angeli Kumar, TSA president and senior at Johnston High School. “It was total chaos at first within my group, but we pulled it together in the last two minutes and built a high balloon tower together. It was a fun way to build teamwork and meet and work with new people.”
Having a strong state student leadership is important for Iowa’s CTSOs and their growth. Leaders represent their organizations and can provide tips on group activities, preparing for competitions and more.
“I’m excited to be president for this year and work with the officer team to make our vision for TSA come to life,” Anjeli said. “We have a chance to make changes and make things better.”
In addition, state officers will play a key role in supporting new chapters across the state with getting started. A recently added requirement now directs all CTE program areas to have a CTSO by 2024-25, which means that many new chapters will be established for all organizations during the coming months. This year’s group of officers are ready to help lead the way.
“I’m a leader who takes charge,” Mary Ann said. “Through my leadership this year, I will take responsibility and have a plan of action for our members. A good leader cares for their teammates and makes sure everyone’s thoughts, feelings and ideas are validated.”
Being a leader takes dedication and hard work, and the tactics learned from the COOL training will be helpful to these state officers and their peers during the upcoming school year. Despite the work involved in being a part of a CTSO, each officer welcomes other students to give it a try.
“It can be a lot to add to your schedule,” Coilee said. “But what you can get out of it is incredible. You have opportunities to reach out to your community, make lifelong friendships and learn future career and personal skills that will make your life better.”