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Students’ Medals Attract Donations
Worth Millions

Having successful students is Scott Thomas’ basis for getting grants from major national and international companies, bringing in more than $87 million in donations for his program.

How does Scott Thomas convince corporations to fork over millions for his program? Without hesitation he answers, “By having a SkillsUSA program with national winners.”

“When I talk to corporations and they say, ‘What gives your program validity?’ I tell them being nationally certified, being in SkillsUSA, [and] having all these different opportunities for students and for the curriculum to grow and be nationally recognized,” Thomas adds. “The companies then in turn want to be involved, so that the students can use their software and hardware. It’s a real nice partnership.”

An 18-year SkillsUSA advisor, Thomas teaches virtual design and construction modeling at Northwest Education Center in Glendale, Ariz. As school started last fall, donations were nearing $90 million. These included a $29-million renewable grant from UGS-PLM Solutions Group, based in Plano, Texas, which has provided both Unigraphics and Solid Edge software and $1.1 million in computers.

Thomas was in the classroom when NavisWorks Inc., based in Sheffield, England, called to offer its 4-D software after learning other companies had granted his school such packages. Other sizable donations have come from Design Data Corp., Autodesk/Revit, ESRI Corp., Softplan Systems Inc. and Launchpad Inc.

For two of his students who’ve both competed at the SkillsUSA Championships, having these cutting-edge resources has meant opportunities.

Jamie Colby (pictured at far left with Thomas, center, and fellow student Kacie Vanasse) earned two national medals in Architectural Drafting: a gold in the 2005 high school contest and a silver in the 2006 postsecondary event.

“It is amazing to open up your computer and see that you have so many programs to choose from,” Colby says. “There are so many things you can learn, because we had an instructor who was willing find the donors.”

The student, who works for a private company doing conceptual drawings of floor plans, has designed a house plan in use by Habitat for Humanity. She’s majoring in housing and urban development at Arizona State University, as is Kacie Vanasse.

Because Vanasse had experience using Geographical Information System software in Thomas’ class, she was hired by Maricopa County (Ariz.) to help make new maps of the city.

“When you first go into the classroom and see the tools, you don’t really realize what’s in front of you,” Vanasse explains. “But once you start to learn them, it’s amazing what you can do.”

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SkillsUSA Champions | Summer 2007 | Volume 41, No. 4
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