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Competition puts graphics students in real-life assignments

POSTED: January 23, 2012 1:30 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

East Hall High School senior Nicole Walling works on a project Thursday during the advertising and design portion of the Skills USA Region 2 competition. Skills USA is a program that allows students to apply practical, real-world experience in various trades and occupations.

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When Scott Porter’s students sit down at the computer workstations in his classroom, they know they aren’t just doing busy work. They’re learning career-based skills that will help them succeed after graduation.

For the last 12 years, the Johnson High School teacher has helped students learn graphic communications and advertising skills they can use in the working world.

They demonstrated some of their knowledge during regional SkillsUSA competitions, which were held at Johnson last week. SkillsUSA, was formerly known as Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, or VICA.

"SkillsUSA is a fantastic organization that connects career opportunities with career skills and academics," said Porter, who worked in the printing industry for 20 years before he became an educator.

"The organization encourages students to continue on to post-secondary education, but a lot of students are able to go straight from high school into the workplace with the skills they’ve learned."

Regino Zavala, a 2011 Johnson High graduate, was one of those students.

"(Porter’s) class helped me to be the person I am today. I went from saying I don’t know how to do anything, to actually learning real skills," said Zavala, who earned first- and second-place awards in the SkillsUSA competitions during high school.

"I worked at a printing shop for two summers, and I interned with them for an entire year. In class we used a lot of Adobe InDesign and Photoshop, and those are the same programs that I used at work."

During last week’s competition, the students were treated as employees. They were given an assignment from a client and turned loose to create.

"I had to make a logo for a water company and then create advertisements using that design," said Jessie Reyes, a Johnson High School senior and an advertising design competitor.

"You know you’re in a competition and you want to do good, so you get a little nervous, but the assignment itself wasn’t difficult."

Sandi Cantel, a freelance graphic designer, has helped to judge the competition for the last three years.

"I’m looking to see if they fulfilled the clients’ requests. I’m also looking to see how much creativity they brought to the table," Cantel said.

"These are assignments a client would give them in real-life situations, so this is definitely usable experience."

The rest of the SkillsUSA Region 2 Championship competitions will be held on Thursday at North Georgia Technical College in Clarkesville. The regional competition will draw students from Hall, Jackson, Barrow, Habersham, Walton, Franklin, Union and Stephens counties.

Local schools with participants include Johnson, East Hall High School, Flowery Branch High School, Gainesville High School and West Hall High School.

"At the regional level, there are more than 30 different competitions," said Cindy Tumblin, Johnson High’s SkillsUSA advisor and work-based learning coordinator."There are competitions for trades like construction, plumbing, cosmetology and masonry."

Although the graphics competition was held last week, the participants will not receive their awards until the main regional championship.

The first and second place winners from regionals will advance to the state competition, which will be held this March in Atlanta, Porter says.

The first-place winners from the state level will advance to the nationals, where they will have the opportunity to compete for scholarships totaling more than $20,000.

"Nationals has a little more than 100 contests," Tumblin said.

"There’s every trade imaginable represented."

Just as diverse as the competition, is the enrollment in the feeder courses at high schools nationwide.

"Our program continues to grow," said Tumblin, who has been involved for nearly 20 years.

"Because we are involved with the technical schools, our kids are seeing a direct correlation to what they’re learning here and a future career.

"Given the whole economic situation, educators and parents are really seeing the value of this type of program. They’re realizing where the jobs really are — in skilled trades."



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