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Sweetening the Deal.

Vocational student organizations (VSOs) are the icing on career and technical education programs for many students. Learning leadership skills and participating in community service and career exploration opportunities are just a couple of reasons students gravitate to these groups--not to mention the chance to make friends and have fun.

Teens like to hang out with their friends and have a good time. They go to movies or visit the mall--pretty normal stuff.

How about flying to New Orleans and giving a speech to more than 8,000 people at last December's Association for Career and Technical Association's convention? Sound like fun? It was to Derek Heim.

"The experience and opportunity to speak and get my point across to educators was a great feeling," says Heim, the national treasurer for the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) and a senior at Norristown High School's Center for Technical Studies in Norristown, Pa. Heim, who will study culinary arts and business management this fall at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., says VICA helped shape his future.

Many VSOs are in their seventh decade of offering students an educational bonus. While some VSO activities are an inherent part of technical curricula, they also provide opportunities beyond the classroom. Skills competitions, field-specific career exploration activities and the chance to meet peers who have shared interests make VSOs--and therefore career and technical programs--attractive to students.

How do VSOs set themselves up for success? And how can these strategies boost career and technical education enrollment? According to VSO leaders, the students themselves are the groups' best marketing tool. And as for career and technical education enrollment, VSOs can only help sweeten the deal.

Not a typical club

There are 10 VSOs recognized by the Education Department serving more than 1.5 million students in career and technical courses and programs. Each one has different requirements for membership beyond paying annual dues. These may include enrollment in at least one course in the VSO field or maintaining an entire sequence of related career and technical education courses. National VSO staff agree that although VSOs offer many opportunities for fun extracurricular activities, these are not your typical after-school clubs.

Take the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), for example. Click on "What is HOSA?" on its Web site and you'll get a very clear message: "HOSA is not a club to which a few students in school join. Rather, HOSA is a powerful instructional tool that works best when it is integrated into the health occupations education (HOE) curriculum and classroom. It is essential that HOSA maintain its momentum and encourage all HOE instructors to integrate HOSA into their curriculum and classrooms."

Most VSOs are co-curricular, which means the national office provides curriculum materials and resources for the classroom. Becoming a HOSA member, for example, is an integral part of a student's HOE program. And it is through the VSO that teachers are able to add spice to their programs with the curriculum materials, community service experiences and leadership conferences provided or organized by the national office.

Carol Lund of the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) national office agrees. "DECA is an integral part of the classroom," she says. "The organization provides teachers and members with educational and leadership development activities to merge with their classroom instructional program."

Participating in VSO activities, such as leadership conferences, skills competitions or holding national office, also can boost a student's resume or college application. So how do VSOs make students aware of all those opportunities?

The strategies break down into two camps--traditional methods like promotional posters, brochures and videos (provided by the national offices) and pure teen talk.

Let students talk it up

Carlos Smith, a high school senior and three-year member of DECA, is one of many students spreading the good word on VSO membership. President of the 93-member chapter at Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, Fla., Smith visited seven neighboring high schools last year promoting DECA during National DECA Week in February.

"DECA has given me the most memorable three years of my life," Smith says. "When I entered high school, I knew I wanted to go to college but had no direction. My sister introduced me to DECA and DECA introduced me to my future career--public relations and marketing."

This is the message Smith shares with his peers when he's promoting DECA. Jennifer Seavey, membership director for the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), says the "enthusiasm and excitement of student leaders is contagious and is the most effective way to get the word into the classroom."

VICA takes this strategy a step further through a short-term mentoring program, "Volunteers in Career Awareness," which pairs VICA members with middle school students. The VICA members make presentations at the middle schools, then invite teachers and students to visit their shops and labs. The younger students are assigned a mentor who demonstrates some of the hands-on activities and projects in high school trades programs. The mentors also can talk more with them about how VICA played a role in their own career plans.

VICA Executive Director Steve Denby says the mentoring program is effective because the students form a bond, making it easy for the younger students to see the benefits enjoyed by a student just their senior. "At the middle school age, the kids just above you in school are your heroes," he notes. "They look up to them and [the mentoring program] helps to put a face and name on their job training."

On top of technology

Each VSO has a Web site that allows members, advisers and prospective members to peruse program descriptions, competitive events and conferences and workshops. Web sites also provide quick access to contact and membership information.

Patty Hopkins, communications coordinator for the Future Homemakers of America (FHA/HERO), says the FHA/HERO Web site has increased the VSO's visibility. "We are really able to use our Web site as an effective recruiting tool," Hopkins says. "Since the site went up, we have had a noticeable increase in requests for membership information and new memberships."

National FFA also uses its Web site as a recruitment tool, but a bit more directly. The site features a detailed recruitment and presentation guide for teachers and FFA advisers. The guide's purpose is to increase enrollment in agricultural education programs and to sell students on FFA membership and careers in agriculture. There's a detailed presentation script that uses props and handouts to entertain students. In one example, teachers put on a "game show" about agricultural education and hold a question-and-answer session about careers in agriculture and the benefits of joining FFA.

Don't forget industry ties

Industry changes can affect VSOs just as they affect the career and technical education programs they represent. For example, the recent boom in the health occupations industry has been HOSA's biggest membership draw.

"The health care industry is our best marketing tool," says Karen Koeninger, HOSA's associate director. "With such expansion and the creation of so many new jobs, we have enjoyed 13 years with significant increases in our membership," she says. "This allows us to spend more time and money on adviser training and member services and less on fundraising and recruitment."

Career and technical education programs inevitably benefit from the prosperity of VSOs. But both also have seen recruitment obstacles--budget cuts and teacher shortages, for example, make it difficult to build enrollment. Several national VSO officials agree that as more career and technical education teachers retire and fewer new teachers replace them, it becomes more difficult to replace and recruit advisers.

"We are just as concerned with recruiting advisers as we are students," says Hopkins from FHA/HERO. "One surprising discovery that we've made in tracking and recruiting new members [and advisers] is that several of our past national officers have decided to go into family and consumer sciences education. This is the most rewarding result we could have imagined."

DECA--DISTRIBUTIVE 1908 Association Drive
 Phone: (703) 860-5000
Ed Davis, Executive Director Web site:

FBLA--FUTURE BUSINESS 1912 Association Drive
LEADERS OF AMERICA Reston, VA 20191-1591
 Phone: (800) 325-2946
 Fax: (703) 758-0749
Jean Buckley, President and CEO Web site:

NATIONAL FFA 6060 FFA Drive, P.O. Box 68960
 Indianapolis, IN 46268-0960
Larry Case, CEO Phone: (317) 802-6060
Bernie Staller, COO Fax: (317) 802-6061
 Web site:

FHA/HERO--FUTURE 1910 Association Drive
 Phone: (703) 476-4900
 Fax-on-demand: (800) 636-8646
Alan Rains, Executive Director Web site:

HOSA--HEALTH 6021 Morriss Road., Suite 111
AMERICA Phone: (800) 321-HOSA
 Fax: (972) 874-0063
 Web site:
Jim Koeninger, Executive Director E-mail:

TSA--TECHNOLOGY STUDENT 1914 Association Drive
ASSOCIATION Reston, VA 20191-1540
 Phone: (703) 860-9000
 Fax: (703) 758-7852
Rosanne White, Executive Director Web site:

INDUSTRIAL CLUBS OF Leesburg, VA 20177-0300
AMERICA Phone: (703) 777-8810
 Fax: (703) 777-8999
 Web site:
Steve Denby, Executive Director E-mail:

BPA--BUSINESS 5454 Cleveland Avenue
 Phone: (614) 895-7277
 Fax: (614) 895-1165
Gary Hannah, President and CEO Web site:

ASSOCIATION Phone: (334) 288-0097
 Web site:
Gordon Stone, Executive Vice

STUDENT ORGANIZATION Phone: (916) 395-5697
 Fax: (916) 395-5699
 Web site:
Kim Perry, Executive Director E-mail:


DECA--DISTRIBUTIVE * Founded in 1946
EDUCATION CLUBS OF AMERICA * 160,000 student members and
 faculty advisers
Ed Davis, Executive Director * 5,000 affiliated secondary
 and postsecondary marketing
 education programs

FBLA--FUTURE BUSINESS * Founded in 1940 and first high
LEADERS OF AMERICA school chapter by 1942
 * 250,000 active members
 * 13,000 chartered chapters
Jean Buckley, President and CEO * Has a postsecondary affiliate
 affiliate--Phi Beta Lambda

NATIONAL FFA * Founded in Kansas City in 1928
 and granted a federal charter
Larry Case, CEO by Congress in 1950
Bernie Staller, COO * 450,000 members
 * 7,200 chapters, with 90
 percent of members in grades

FHA/HERO--FUTURE * Founded in 1945
HOMEMAKERS OF AMERICA * 230,000 members

Alan Rains, Executive Director

HOSA--HEALTH * Founded in 1976
OCCUPATIONS STUDENTS OF * 60,000 student members
AMERICA * 1,900 chapters and 33
 affiliated state associations

Jim Koeninger, Executive Director

TSA--TECHNOLOGY STUDENT * Founded officially in 1978 as
ASSOCIATION AIASA (American Industrial
 Arts Students Assoc.); the
 name changed to TSA in 1988
Rosanne White, Executive Director * 100,000 members
 * 2,000 school chapters

VICA--VOCATIONAL * Founded in 1965
INDUSTRIAL CLUBS OF * 239,000 student members
AMERICA * 13,000 chapters

Steve Denby, Executive Director

BPA--BUSINESS * National office founded in
PROFESSIONALS OF AMERICA 1971 in Columbus, Ohio, as the
 Office Education Association
 (OEA), it became BPA in 1988
Gary Hannah, President and CEO * 40,000 members in three
 postsecondary and professional

NYFEA--NATIONAL YOUNG * Founded in 1982 to promote
FARMERS EDUCATIONAL leadership in agriculture
 * 25,000 members

Gordon Stone, Executive Vice

PAS--NATIONAL POST- * Officially founded in 1980

Kim Perry, Executive Director

RELATED ARTICLE: In the beginning

"In my opinion, the farm boys of Virginia who are enrolled in vocational agriculture are equal to any other group of boys in the state. But somehow the boys have a feeling of inferiority. This is especially true when the farm boy goes to the city and must compete with his city cousin. I believe that a strong organization will give them a greater opportunity for self-expression and for the development of leadership. In this way they will develop confidence in their own ability and pride in the fact that they are farm boys."

So said the late Walter Newman in 1925. Virginia's Supervisor of Agricultural Education, Newman was among the founders of the Future Farmers of Virginia, which would lead to the Future Farmers of America--the first national VSO, Now the National FFA, the organization got its start in Kansas City, Mo., in 1928, but it wasn't until 1950 that it received an official federal charter from Congress. By that time, several other VSOs had sprouted--Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA)in 1940, Future Homemakers of America (FHA/HERO) in 1945 and Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) in 1946.--J.C.

Julie Cahill is a Techniques contributing editor. Kathleen Brady is the career experience specialist at Edison High School Academy in Fairfax County, Va., and a former staff member at the Association for Career and Technical Education.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Association for Career and Technical Education
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:vocational student organizations enhance student opportunities
Author:Cahill, Julie; Brady, Kathleen
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 1999
Previous Article:Packed by Popular Demand.
Next Article:Soft skills, hard sell.

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