News Release: Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation Launches Fresh Initiative to Support Local Workforce Pipeline

For Immediate Release

Santa Rosa, California (March 13, 2019) – The Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation Sonoma County has launched its newest initiative in partnership with the county’s largest employers and education institutions. The Sonoma Corps is a pilot program recruiting high school students in their senior year to prepare them for a “gap year” work experience internship following graduation. Beginning in Fall 2019, up to 20 seniors from Piner High, identified through a competitive application process, will attend semi-weekly classes to develop work-readiness and technical skills, meet employers, and explore how personal interests can lead to lucrative careers with Sonoma County employers. Upon high school graduation, participants will be assigned to a year-long paid internship based on their learning objectives and aligned to economic development needs in the county. After successful completion of gap-year internships, participants will be awarded scholarships for tuition at a post-secondary institution, preferably into education pathway programs at SRJC and SSU.

Students across the country are increasingly opting to postpone their traditional academic plans and participate in a gap year experience, a break between high school and college that might include travel, work or volunteering before continuing academic studies. The trend supports increased demand for structured gap year programs, which allow young people to explore their interests and ultimately enter their post-secondary school more energized and focused. Data shows how students who had internships where they could apply the knowledge and skills they were learning in the classroom are more likely to find full-time employment after college and to be engaged in their work.[i] 

The Sonoma Corps concept was developed to further a key strategy of Strategic Sonoma’s “grow our own” approach when addressing local workforce shortages. In its competitive assessment, Strategic Sonoma sites the demand for workers with mechanical and technical skills, stating, “Education-dependent technology jobs grew 36% over the past decade – compared to only 3% overall growth.”

Ethan Brown, program manager at the Sonoma County Economic Development Board and Sonoma Corps steering committee member, sees that many in-demand jobs increasingly require skills and knowledge that go beyond entry-level skills.

“For at least a decade, we have seen local companies struggle increasingly to recruit and retain skilled employees,” Brown said. “The 2017 fires exacerbated this problem and it’s crucial that we develop a pipeline to train young people for careers that will keep them in the region and support the growth of our local economy.”

Sonoma County’s population is aging faster than the national average – 28% of our local workforce was over the age 55 in 2016 – and rapidly losing residents under 25 years old due to the region’s high cost of living and perceived lack of opportunities to earn a living wage. Concurrently, many high school graduates find themselves unprepared to enter college – financially, emotionally, and academically – and instead languish in transfer programs with little direction or motivation to persevere in their studies. These same students also lack relevant skills for efficient transition to in-demand, skilled, high-wage jobs which would allow them to stay local.

“CTE Foundation has a proven track record in creating and funding programs that create pathways to careers and post-secondary education,” said Jim Happ, president of Labcon and Sonoma Corps steering committee member. “This initiative leverages CTEF’s experience with other successful programs like the North Bay Construction Corps and expands growth of a skilled workforce pipeline for the industries that drive our local economy. I look forward to participating in and growing the program so that we can continue hiring skilled workers from our community.”


About Sonoma Corps

Developed in partnership with public and private stakeholders, Sonoma Corps is a gap year program for high school students. Several industry partners are involved in the design and implementation of the program, and have signed up to host a “gap year” intern with their company, including: County of Sonoma General Services Department; E&J Gallo; Keysight Technologies; Labcon; Straus Family Creamery; and Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART). In addition to major employers, key education stakeholders have pledged support to bring Sonoma Corps to fruition: Jerry Miller, Senior Dean, Career & Technical Education and Economic Development at Santa Rosa Junior College; Lisa Vollendorf, Provost at Sonoma State University; and Stephen Jackson, Director, CTE Partnerships at Sonoma County Office of Education. Jen Klose, President of Santa Rosa City Schools Board (the largest district in the County with six high schools, including Piner) is a close collaborator on Sonoma Corps, and will be instrumental in its pilot implementation, evaluation and model development. Finally, Ethan Brown, Program Manager at the Economic Development Board will represent the Strategic Sonoma coalition on the Committee. Steering Committee activities launched February 11, 2019. All partners named above gathered to discuss motivations for joining the effort, come to agreement on program goals and desired outcomes, and provide input on the ideal candidate for the program. Monthly meetings have been set for the year to guide program development, including senior-year course curriculum, gap-year internship structure, student recruitment and wrap-around support planning.

About Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation

The Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation, founded in 2013, works to improve the economic outlook for Sonoma County’s youth by investing resources in a coordinated system of college and career readiness programs that lead to high-wage, high-demand, and high-skilled jobs in the county. The aim is to significantly improve overall student success and achievement through innovative educational programs that simultaneously mirror local economic trends and workforce demand. This is accomplished by gathering input from local employers about the skills gap and workforce training needs to help guide and coordinate opportunities to build a constructive connection between educational institutions and industry leaders while retaining the flexibility to respond to the challenges and needs faced by both.


[i] Learning to Work and Working to Learn, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF), June 20, 2017,

News Release: Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation Exceeds $3 Million Investment In Local Schools & Programs With Recent Grant Awards

Santa Rosa, California (February 6, 2019) – The Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation has approved $343,652 in grant funding for 22 technical education programs among 11 Sonoma County schools.

Now in its sixth funding cycle, the CTE Foundation has invested over $3 million since its founding in 2013, creating new programs that connect students to employers for career exploration and skill-building and spurring over 100 new classes in local schools that focus on career and technical education in industries including engineering, manufacturing, agriculture, health, and the construction trades. 

The 2019-2020 funding adds two new schools to the organization’s portfolio and new classes with topics from robotics to welding technology that will expand opportunities for at least 400 students throughout the county, including more than 50 girls who will enroll in a Women in Engineering pathway at Rancho Cotati High School. The funding also aims to enhance the students’ classroom experience through supply grants that help teachers provide engaging, hands-on learning. Two planning grants were also awarded at Credo High School and Technology High School to create blueprints for pathways in regenerative agriculture and building math confidence, respectively. 

“Our organization’s momentum continues, and we are thrilled with the innovative learning opportunities presented by all of our awardees that align with the county’s workforce demands,” said CTE Foundation Board Chair Bob McGee, who is also President and Chief Operating Officer at Straus Family Creamery. “We are seeing more students better prepared for in-demand careers that are both high-skilled and high-wage.”

In addition to grants for schools, the CTE Foundation invests in programs that increase relevance for student learning from the classroom to real life, and students enrolled in these programs are engaged, active learners who graduate at higher rates and are better prepared for the rigors of both college and career than their non-CTE counterparts.  

To learn more about the CTE Foundation, programs, funding or donor opportunities, contact Kathy Goodacre at (707) 708-7081 To tour a CTE classroom, contact Leslie Simmons at (707) 755-5722 or

Rethinking College and Career Readiness

Last spring, the CTE Foundation, in partnership with Sonoma County Office of Education, launched a community engagement process to help develop a common definition and success measures for what it means to truly be “college and career ready” for Sonoma County graduates.   Through this effort, a task force was formed to answer the question: What skills and characteristics does a K-12 graduate in Sonoma County need to demonstrate in order to successfully transition to the post K-12 world? 

We are fortunate to live in a forward-thinking county, where we enjoy the collaborative support and leadership among our education, business and community partners. To help address this question and with a focus on achieving college, career and life success for EVERY student, the Task Force has chosen a powerful approach called Portrait of a Graduate (POG).  This collaborative model, designed by Batelle for Kids, is transforming school districts nationwide by engaging the larger community in developing a collective vision that articulates the community’s aspirations for ALL students. During the next nine months the College and Career Ready Task Force, renamed POG Design Team, will be engaging with a broad representation of community stakeholders to answer the following:

  • What are the hopes, aspirations, and dreams that our community has for our young people?
  • What are the skills and habits of mind that our children need for success in this rapidly changing and complex world?
  • What are the implications for the design of the learning experiences—and equitable access to those experiences—we provide in our school systems?

Several local high schools are already implementing around graduate profiles, providing a stated vision for what students should know and be able to do to succeed and prepare for “what’s next” after graduation.  With the input from local districts, the development of a Sonoma County Portrait of a Graduate through a community-wide approach, can serve as a North Star for local school in setting their own strategic direction in designing the overall educational experience for students. More importantly, this collective vision can reinvigorate and re-engage our students, teachers and community stakeholders.

We are seeking input and participation from business and community leaders for the design and development of the Sonoma County POG, if you are interested, please contact


News Release: CTE Foundation to receive $1 million grant to expand North Bay Construction Corps

Santa Rosa, CA (April 10th, 2018) – The Career Technical Education Foundation Sonoma County has been approved for a $1 million grant from Tipping Point Community, a prominent Bay Area funder that fights poverty in the Bay Area, to support expansion of a successful local youth training program called the North Bay Construction Corps. The funding is part of their Emergency Relief Fund, established to support the North Bay’s recovery and rebuilding efforts following the devastating fires last year that damaged thousands of homes and businesses.


The CTE Foundation and its partners in the Construction Corps program, the North Coast Builders Exchange and Sonoma Office of Education, announced the grant today noting that the funds will be used to enhance and expand the NBCC training program in response to the increased workforce needs of the building trades as the 4-county North Bay begins to rebuild. According to the CTE Foundation, the $1 million grant will be used to leverage and supplement the current support for the Construction Corps program in Sonoma County and will provide for expansion into other neighboring counties in the future.


The North Bay Construction Corps is a 5-month training program that introduces high school seniors to careers and jobs in construction in various trades. The program, now in its second year, has proven to be a very successful model that currently includes two cohorts in Sonoma County comprised of 37 young men and women who are in their last semester of high school. The CTE Foundation will work with the North Coast Builders Exchange to develop and execute programs in Napa and Lake Counties, as well as coordinate expansion of an existing Mendocino County Construction Corps program that began earlier this year. Additional interest and funding has been pledged to support expansion into Marin County as well.


“It is so important to provide engaging opportunities that inspire the next generation of tradespeople,” says Barbie Richardson, Owner of Simpson Sheet Metal and CTE Foundation Board Member. “Construction Corps encourages high school students to explore in a hands-on environment how their interests can be leveraged to create a successful career in this industry.”


The five-month training program includes classes that meet one night a week and one

Saturday a month and are exclusively taught by local construction industry representatives to give students a sampling of what it’s like to work in a variety of trades and to expose them to multiple employers.  Students learn the fundamentals of tool handling, safety, electrical, plumbing, carpentry, solar, and more. They also earn certifications in Forklift and Scissor Lift Operation, OSHA 10, and CPR/First Aid, giving them a significant advantage upon completion as they seek entry level work or further training such as an apprenticeship.


The program culminates in a 2-week Boot Camp during the summer that allows students to practice their skills and experience first-hand the day-to-day work life in the industry while earning a stipend. Along with trade-based technical skills, students learn soft skills such as communication, teamwork, problem solving, leadership, and working on deadlines, which are all applied throughout the program.



“A national survey of homebuilders conducted recently revealed a startling statistic, one that likely applies to the North Bay,” said Jeff Scott, President of the Builders Exchange. “For every five construction workers who will retire over the next several years, only one new worker is entering the field.  That is unsustainable.” Scott added that NCBE is enthusiastic about continuing its great partnership with the CTE Foundation which will lead to the Construction Corps concept expanding to other counties to lend support to industry workforce development goals.


In addition to funding the multi-county expansion of the program, the Tipping Point Emergency Relief Fund donation also provides funding to meet a local grant challenge to expand the program within Sonoma County. Local funders, Tony Crabb & Barbara Grasseschi, Morgan Family Foundation, Syar Foundation, and Bancroft Foundation have collectively donated $200,000 to be offered as a challenge match to the public. An additional $200,000 is needed to support the Sonoma County program through 2020. Fundraising is already underway, with commitments from the Engineering Contractors Association, BIA Bay Area, Charlie Palmer’s Pigs & Pinot Event, Windsor Education Foundation, and North Coast Builders Exchange.  The resulting support would potentially fund a total of eight cohorts, including four in Sonoma County, and serving up to 240 high school seniors.


As our community is faced with one of the largest disasters in its history, both public and private funding is needed to find ways to relieve the pains and rebuild the losses.  “For those not directly impacted by the fires, it might be easy to think of the tragedy that we faced last October as long past,” says Karen Fies, Director of Sonoma County Human Services and CTE Foundation Board Chair, “Yet there are thousands of displaced residents that want to go back to their homes, and the only way they can do that is if we have a strong workforce of Construction and trades professionals to put the pieces back together.”



For more information about the Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation and/or the North Bay Construction Corps, contact Kathy Goodacre, Executive Director, at or call 707-708-7081.


Kaiser Permanente Supports Health Career Pathway Programs

Northern California Community Benefit Programs Awards $95,000 to Fund Health Careers Academy and Summer Health Careers Institute

CTE Foundation is happy to announce its renewed partnership with Kaiser Permanente Northern California Community Benefit Program. The grant supports work to expand and enhance two signature programs that enable high school students to explore a wide variety of careers in healthcare while learning technical and soft skills required by the industry. Implemented by Santa Rosa Junior College, students learn through a series of lectures, labs, and job shadows at local institutions. Importantly, participants earn both high school and college credit. Read the stories of two students who participated in last year’s Summer Health Careers Institute, and check out links to both programs below. Registration is now open for Fall 2017 Health Careers Academy!


Daisy always knew that she would go to college one day, but she really didn’t start thinking about what it would take to get there until encouraged by her teachers at Casa Grande High School. “College felt far away,” she says, “In Mexico, education is really different, and I didn’t have a sense of the process.” Daisy’s Clinical Biology teacher knew that she was interested in becoming a nurse and told her that the SRJC’s Summer Health Careers Institute would be a good experience, and it would help her prepare for ongoing education.

Daisy talks enthusiastically about the application process, saying that not only was it her first real interview experience, but it also helped her learn how to present herself in a professional way. “You can’t be trying to help people and not be passionate about helping others,” she says, and learning how to express that passion verbally was an important experience for her.

During the program, Daisy gained a much clearer picture of her potential career pathways and the required education to get there. The immersive, hands-on learning opportunities have only fueled Daisy’s passion for helping others. When asked about the class sessions that inspire her most, she first tells a story about being able to watch nurses in action at St. Joseph’s hospital, and then how helping them with their patients made her feel a strong sense of purpose. She then goes on to describe other classes, such as shadowing a public health official in the field, and observing hospital doctors in cardio and in pediatrics, and how those experiences have inspired her to think beyond her original goals. “Every week I change my mind about where I want to go. It helps me out because I now know I have a lot of other choices too, not just nursing. I know because of this program that there are a lot of things in healthcare that I can do.”


Throughout his youth, Bryan has committed to helping others. Growing up he would sometimes end up in a hospital, and it was there that he saw first-hand how caring doctors and nurses could be. It was an experience that impacted him greatly, “I want to be in a position to help others, to comfort them, to make sure things at home are good,” he says.

Outside of school, Bryan works 4-5 days a week at a local pizza restaurant, teaches Tae Kwon Do to little kids, and volunteers at both the food bank and at Petaluma Hospital. While getting his homework done is a challenge with these extra-curricular activities, he is grateful to have the opportunity to participate in the Summer Health Careers Institute. “This program is making me stay focused on my goals for the future. It’s worth giving up my summer to do this,” he states with a smile.

When asked about what he appreciates about the program most he begins by  saying, “I cannot stop talking about this things I have learned these last weeks, it’s incredible!” He starts by sharing how he has already used the techniques learned in the Crucial Conversations training at both his work and with his Tae Kwon Do kids. He then talks about his experiences shadowing people at the hospital, learning about how to chart, and observing the process of diagnosing patients.

But most importantly for him was learning that there are options in healthcare beyond simply going to medical school. The program has shown him other pathways that could lead to a career as a doctor while allowing him to work and gain experience along the way. At the moment, he feels the best approach is to start as a nurse, then work his way to physician’s assistant, perhaps becoming a trauma doctor, and then decide if committing to extra schooling is right for him. “A step-by-step program makes me feel more comfortable,” he says, “And this course has helped me create a laddered approach to learning and building my career.”


Summer Health Careers Institute - 5 Week Summer Program

Health Careers Academy - Academic School Year Program

Community WISE Kick-Off Event Raises $30,000 in Pledges!

CTE Foundation, Sonoma State University, and Community Leaders Gather to Discuss Importance of Supporting Women and Girls Pursuing STEM Education and Careers

Community WISE (Women Investing in STEM Equity), a project of CTE Foundation, made its official debut this past weekend and quickly earned enthusiastic support from local industry and community leaders.


Dr. Judy Sakaki, President of Sonoma State University, and her husband, Patrick McCallum, hosted the intimate gathering at their home Sunday. Dr. Sakaki shared her story of breaking barriers and overcoming gender bias throughout her career, and spoke to the need for programs that support future female leaders in the county.

Kathy Goodacre and Dr. Lynn Stauffer, co-leaders of Community WISE, provided background on the program, its Mission and goals, and future plans for investment in local initiatives that inspire and prepare girls and young women in pursuit of STEM education and careers.

Three students – Tania Deleva from Sonoma State University, Isabel Nunez-Perez from Healdsburg High School, and Miranda Pokorny from Technology High School – shared personal stories of the challenges each faced as young women forging their way through science, technology, and engineering education.

Lisa Wittke Schaffner, Executive Director of the John Jordan Foundation, and Hamish Gray, Senior Vice President at Keysight, each addressed the group and pledged their financial support to launch the program. Lisa and Hamish, both CTE Foundation Board Members, discussed the positive impacts on work force development and the local economy achieved by encouraging more girls to explore careers in STEM, and asked members of the audience to join them in the effort. Additional pledges were received following the presentation, generating more than $30,000 in pledged support.

About Community WISE

In 2016, CTE Foundation, in partnership with several local organizations and women leaders, set out to form a leadership group to address the formidable gender gap for girls and women in pursuit of Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education and careers. Community WISE was formed under the guidance of female leadership from CTE Foundation, Sonoma State University, Sonoma County Office of Education, Keysight Technologies, Straus Family Creamery, Sonic, and students in Engineering/Technology pathway programs in local high schools.

Today, Community WISE seeks to convene a coalition of local employers, education institutions, students and community leaders who will identify and invest in engaging learning opportunities that inspire and prepare more girls and young women to pursue STEM majors and careers. Community WISE believes that our STEM workforce issues can only be solved by diverse partners collaborating to create disruptive solutions that promote equity for all girls and underrepresented racial minorities.

To learn more about Community WISE, or to join the coalition, please see our program web page, or contact Kathy Goodacre at 707-708-7080.

Community WISE Members Earn Recognition for Achievements

About Community WISE: In partnership with Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation and Sonoma State University, Community WISE (Women Investing in STEM Equity) is a coalition of local employers, educators, students and community leaders who are committed to identifying and investing in strategies that empower girls and women in STEM education and careers.

Congratulations are in order for Community WISE Steering Committee members, Isabel Nunez Perez and Miranda Pokorny.

Each earned important recognition this week for their outstanding leadership, community service, and academic achievements.

Isabel was chosen as one of ten high school seniors to receive a Press Democrat Community Youth Service Award. The award recognizes students for their volunteerism and commitments to helping others. Winners receive $1,000 and were chosen from 131 nominations from 16 schools, according to Wednesday’s announcement in the Press Democrat.

Isabel attends Healdsburg High School and was recognized for her work encouraging young students – especially girls and minorities – to pursue STEM education and careers. She mentored a team of elementary school girls in a robotics competition, helping them brainstorm and program the robots while sharing her experiences as a science and technology student.  She loves to tell girls that engineering is not just for boys.

“Engineering for me is much more than numbers,” she said to a PD correspondent. “It has allowed me to resonate with my inner rebel, challenge stereotypes and be part of something bigger than myself.”

Miranda Pokorny was selected to receive the most prestigious scholarship award offered by San Francisco State University – the Presidential Scholars Distinction-in-Service Program. According to the University, the award recognizes high-achieving freshmen that have distinguished themselves as scholars and leaders in their communities, and is offered to just 5-10 first-time freshmen each year.

Miranda attended Technology High School in Rohnert Park, and is a strong advocate for girls and young women in STEM. Her personal experience of gender discrimination and bullying has led her to work with the Equal Rights Advocates, a large gender equity law firm in San Francisco, who is using her case to develop training materials and guidelines to prevent discrimination in schools nationwide.

Miranda will soon begin her studies to become a Female Rights Advocate. “When I think about the future, all I can do is smile,” Miranda said, “Because I will get the opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives, and that is the greatest gift I could ever receive.”

We are so proud of these young women, and grateful for their participation on the Community WISE team. Congratulations, Miranda and Isabel!


About Community WISE: In partnership with Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation and Sonoma State University, Community WISE (Women Investing in STEM Equity) is a coalition of local employers, educators, students and community leaders who are committed to identifying and investing in strategies that empower girls and women in STEM education and careers.

Nearly half of the jobs of the future require competencies in STEM, and yet women account for just 24% of the STEM workforce. Women’s under-representation in STEM fields begins early, with gender gaps in STEM interests beginning in middle school and growing throughout high school, college, and career. Far too many girls and women are discouraged from pursuing success in STEM fields.

Our Mission is to invest in STEM initiatives for girls and women to enrich their learning and career opportunities. Our purpose is to build resources and lead change so that every woman and girl in Sonoma County achieves her full potential. We are committed to women’s economic self-sufficiency and we believe improving educational and career opportunities for girls and women in STEM fields will empower more women to secure economic independence through greater lifetime earnings and increased entrepreneurial opportunities. For more information, or to become a member of the coalition, please contact Kathy Goodacre, Executive Director, 707-708-7080. Or check out our Community WISE webpage.

First Food & Beverage Manufacturing Student/Industry Symposium a Success!

Students Connect with Employees and Hiring Managers to Learn About Career Opportunities

Fifteen food and beverage manufacturers joined CTE Foundation in a first-ever event designed to introduce high school and college students to the wide variety of career paths available in the industry. From production and bottling line design, engineering, and maintenance, to food chemistry, quality control, and product delivery, over 100 participating students learned how their skills and interests could lead to fulfilling jobs right here in Sonoma County.

Straus Family Creamery, E&J Gallo, Whole Foods, Cowgirl Creamery, Petaluma Poultry, and American Ag Credit sponsored the event. Jackson Family Wines brought a mobile bottling line to demonstrate some of the complex machinery required to bring products to market, and the mechanical skills required to operate them.

Check out our video to hear what students have to say about the event and the opportunities they uncovered for themselves.

North Bay Business Journal and Press Democrat were on site to report on events, read the full article here.

CTE in Action: Sonoma Valley HS Student Takes on Power Mechanics

Student stands next to lawn mower in SVHS Power Mechanics class

Annie has a look of intense concentration on her face. Peering in to the depths of a piece of machinery with the help of a flashlight held by her fellow student, she cranks an unseen part into place, intent on re-assembling the four-stroke combustion engine at her work station. She is the only girl in the class.

Faced with a choice to enroll in either a newspaper class or Power Mechanics, Annie chose to go with the traditionally male-dominated course. “I’m involved in a lot of Agriculture classes already, so I thought I’d take one more,” she said, “I thought I’d get to learn something new, and it would be a fun experience.”

Power Mechanics is one of many electives in Sonoma Valley High School’s Agriculture Academy/Career Pathway program.

The class teaches the basics of engine design, repair, and maintenance, providing students an opportunity to learn technical skills relevant to the agriculture industry in a hands-on environment.

When asked how she feels about being the only girl in class, fifteen year-old Annie smiles. “It’s a little different,” she says, “when I first started the class I was really quiet and didn’t talk to anyone because they were older and felt intimidating.” She laughs, reflecting on those first days. “I have some friends in here now, I got used to them, they’re all really funny and pretty nice, so it’s easier now.”

Annie clearly enjoys the technical knowledge she’s learned in the class. When asked how she is applying her new skills, she smiles broadly and says, “Right now I’m repairing my dad’s lawn mower.” Annie’s family owns a dairy and a vineyard, so in addition to regular lawn maintenance, there is always farm equipment that needs to be repaired and maintained. Annie is happy that she can now help with these chores, and it sounds like her father is too.

“He thinks it’s pretty cool and he’s excited that he can talk to me about some of this stuff,” she says.

Engine maintenance aside, Annie plans on staying in the family business. She is enrolled in Plant and Soil Science and is planning to take a viticulture class in the near future.

CTE Month Student Profile: El Molino Sophomore Refines his Brand in Project Make Class

Ben A., a student at El Molino High School, is creating a new clothing brand that he believes will be a big hit among his peers. At fifteen years old his friends are already rallying behind his idea, and Ben is starting to make T-shirts with the logo he designed. Ben’s participation in his school’s Project Make class has helped him develop his brand ideas and spurred his interest in entrepreneurship.

Project Make is a CTE course that teaches students basic design and engineering principles, and allows them to practice using tools and technology currently in use in a variety of industries, such as 3D modeling and printing, graphic design software, simple circuitry and computer programming. In addition to learning technical skills related to design and manufacture, the class develops skills in project management, budgeting, problem-solving, and communication.

At 11 years old, Ben had his first encounter with Photoshop and was immediately hooked on the ability to create and manipulate images.

Friends took notice and complemented him on his unique designs, and then people began to pay him to create designs for them. “It’s really cool to make your own stuff,” Ben says, “Making a brand, putting it out there, and hearing people get excited about something you’ve made and they’ve never seen before; it’s great!”

Ben joined the Project Make class to be able to explore different graphic design tools and technology, and to have dedicated time to work on his creative ideas. His latest creation is a new clothing brand, Gloomy. Ben conceived the name, developed the graphic design for the brand, created decals for application on clothing, and is now thinking about how to market it. “I hope to go somewhere with this,” says Ben, “I want to invest in my design and to earn money on this idea, so that by the time I’m 19 I’ll have an income.”

Ben is considering his post high school options now. Going to college to get a marketing degree is one option, going to a school where he can build on his skills in design and video production is another. Whichever path he chooses, he’s certain that a career in creative design and marketing is in his future.