This feature is Part 2 in a series about SkillsUSA participants from Thomas A. Edison Academy in Elizabeth, N.J. Click to read Part 1.
The great Michael Jordan once said, "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships." In the midst of March Madness, there is one team out of Elizabeth, N.J., that is looking to use their intelligence and teamwork to win SkillsUSA gold.
With all the things he's learned while preparing for competition, Bruno Mendes of the Thomas A. Edison career pathways team has come to value one thing above all else while working toward the gold.
"The biggest thing I've learned is probably teamwork," said Bruno. "Because you can’t do a competition without teamwork"
Bruno and his teammates practice 10-to-15 hours a week both during and after school to perfect their craft. The training process involves a lot of repetition, as the students prepare to present their IT skills to SkillsUSA judges. The students work to memorize their carefully constructed script and Prezi slideshow that outline the importance of certification in aligning students with the right career path. To accomplish this, each student has specific responsibilities.
"Bruno focuses on perfecting our performance," explained Liliana Mejia, career pathways team member. "Meanwhile, Dan and I focus on the media provided to the judges such as brochures, articles, and the presentation Prezi."
"My responsibility is making sure our media is the best quality we can provide as well as making sure everything is up to date and the work gets done," added Daniel Ugalde, the third member of Thomas A. Edison's career pathways team.
To ensure the quality of their presentation, the students have relied heavily on their training material provided by IT education, training and certification provider TestOut Corporation.
Michael Chang, the students' instructor, explained that his role as part of the team is to be the point of contact between the career pathways team and industry professionals. Thanks to Mr. Chang's efforts, the team has been able to speak to IT director Joseph Lin of Cerner Corporation; a network engineer at Bloomberg Business; and sales rep Wendy Edwards of TestOut.
"TestOut has provided videos, testimonies, access to courseware for evaluation and strong student data to help us understand the IT career pathway," said Mr. Chang. "We have a much stronger understanding of the barriers to enter an IT career, and the most efficient pathway. We see the mission of TestOut to improve students' lives."
Chang has witnessed first hand how his students' lives changed as they accepted the challenge to earn TestOut's PC Pro, as well as the A+ certification offered by CompTIA. He is witnessing this with current student Jonathan Martinez, who is the fourth IT student from Thomas A. Edison Acadamy participating in the SkillsUSA competition.
"Mr. Chang is very involved in training, motivating me to do training myself," said Jonathan. "I’m learning a lot about motivation and determination and hard work to get to where you want to be."
Jonathan will be earning a certification when he participates in the Information Technology Services part of the competition in May, so his training schedule takes up nearly as many hours as a full time job. That's the price he has to pay for being on the fast track to receive CompTIA's A+ certification.
Jonathan spends his time reading, watching videos, participating in simulations and taking practice exams provided by the TestOut curriculum. Jonathan does most of this on his own, but like Bruno, he knows the importance of relying on a team. Jonathan often reaches out to Bruno, who is also very proficient with the TestOut software. Together, both expect to master important IT skills in addition to earning SkillsUSA gold medals.
The career pathways team was scheduled to compete on March 20, but due to adverse weather conditions in the northeast, the team will now be competing March 27. Jonathan will be competing on May 2.
With their understanding of teamwork, Bruno, Daniel, Liliana and Jonathan are learning and growing together, getting closer to achieving their goals as SkillsUSA participants, as well as their life career goals. It's rewarding, but it hasn't been easy.
"To actually get your A+ certification is a lot of hard work, and if you’re not motivated to do that, and if you’re not willing to devote yourself to do that, then don’t even try it," said Jonathan. "It’s not something that you can breeze through and make a lot of money. You have to really work hard and dedicate your time to get to where you need to be."
Bruno added his words of advice to those working toward certification: "Keep pushing through, and at the end you’ll have better opportunities than you started with."