Jonathan Reyes

Jonathan Reyes

There’s a tenaciously held myth about career and technical education that CTE students don’t have the same shot at success as those following the traditional academic track. Jonathan Reyes — a media arts and animation student at The Art Institute in California — is a living, breathing, 3-D example of why that myth needs to be ushered into extinction.

“It’s a matter of finding your passion,” Reyes laughs knowingly. “Technical students have it, and that leads to success.”

At 19, Reyes boasts a résumé that veterans in his field would covet. He’s won numerous national awards, including back-to-back gold at the SkillsUSA Championships (in 3-D Visualization and Animation) and multiple Addy Awards (the world’s toughest advertising competition). He’s mastered a host of software packages related to his field. But most impressive is his growing list of clients.

Reyes credits his personal faith and high school instructor Jim Burke with much of his success. Burke credits Reyes’ “powerful drive.” But both agree on another key factor: SkillsUSA.

As a sophomore at Regional Technical Institute in Reno, Nev., Reyes was a new student in Burke’s 3-D design, visualization and animation course. Reyes had been exposed to SkillsUSA before; under Burke’s guidance, the influence grew.

“I got into the PDP [Professional Development Program],” Reyes says, “and it helped my self-confidence. You get to develop your speech, your interactivity, how you deal with the world. It was the greatest thing for a high school student.”

“He was one of the most artistically gifted students I’ve had, but what set him apart is his love for sharing what he knew,” says Burke. “He became active in community service, he spoke to our state legislature, he was even our class president.”

“He is one of my favorite teachers,” Reyes says of Burke. “The edge he gave his students was fantastic. He’d find industry-level opportunities for us to gain hands-on experience. He’d also always enter our stuff in contests.”

One of those entries saw Reyes’ “stuff” earning him a trip to Carnegie Hall in New York City, where he received the same national Scholastic Art Award that was once presented to Andy Warhol.

Today, Reyes balances a full course load with a full-time position as 3-D artist and webmaster for California-based EON Reality, and the SkillsUSA edge is more apparent to him than ever. But even in a competitive field, Reyes, true to his nature, isn’t keeping that edge to himself. “From the experiences I’ve gained, I’m able to help my fellow students now,” he says. And another myth bites the dust.