Jake Newman was like so many high school students: unsure of what he wanted from life and less sure how to figure it out. But in an unexpected instant, he found what he’d been looking for.
It seemed like just an ordinary field trip when sophomore Jake Newman, along with his class, prepared to take a tour of Spotsylvania (Va.) Career and Technical Center. Newman was, in his own words, “a young kid with no direction.” Today, the 29-year-old sergeant first class is the special projects producer for the Pentagon Channel, an institution considered to be the pinnacle of military broadcasting.
An “ordinary” field trip? Not even close.
“It’s going to sound cheesy, but it was magic,” Newman remembers the tour. “When I stepped into the radio and television broadcasting classroom, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Under the guidance of instructor Janet Baker, whom he still considers a friend and mentor, Newman “learned all aspects of operating a TV studio, from cameras to lighting to sound and editing.” Part of the curriculum was a surprise, however: the leadership training he received from SkillsUSA. His enrollment in the school had unknowingly made him a member.
“SkillsUSA laid the foundation that I’ve built upon over my career,” Newman says. “I was on the Opening and Closing Ceremonies team, and I thought, ‘Why do I need to know how to do a ceremony?’ Today, I know. That helped me understand the importance of following procedures and paying attention to details, which is so important in what I do daily.”
After graduation, Newman enlisted in the Army. “The thought process was pretty simple,” he says. “I couldn’t afford college.” While the Army seemed like a temporary detour, Newman was about to enter another whirlwind of opportunity.
In the Army, Newman not only continued his broadcasting training but also gained intensive real-world experience. He worked as a television and radio broadcaster in Korea and a broadcast journalist in New York and Kosovo. He covered the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500 and co-hosted presidential inauguration broadcasts. He’s been a news anchor, an executive producer and a video editor, helping to shape stories on various aspects of military life, both at home and abroad.
“Every soldier has a story,” Newman says. “My job is to find the hidden, unique stories and bring them to life.”
Newman’s dream job is to work for NASCAR in public relations, and he’s already pursuing a bachelor’s degree in that field. But wherever his career path takes him, Newman knows he’ll be prepared, thanks in large part to where that path began.
“Like I said before,” he affirms, “if it wasn’t for Janet Baker and the Spotsylvania CTC, I’d probably still be trying to figure out what to do when I grow up!”
SkillsUSA Champions | Spring 2008 | Volume 42, No. 3