Monthly Archives: September 2022

CareerTech Champions

Joseph Gordon – Moore Norman Technology Center

A love of computers runs in Joseph Gordon’s family. His father works in information technology, and Gordon took his first programming class in middle school. He was intrigued by how computers worked, but he wasn’t really enthralled with programming. A few years later, he toured Moore Norman Technology Center and was intrigued by the network and cloud administration course.

The 16-year-old high school junior enrolled at Moore Norman Tech and was already A+ certified early in his first semester. When school let out for the summer, he accepted an unpaid internship with Norman Public Schools to repair MacBooks. He continued the internship after school started, working for NPS early in the morning, driving to Moore Norman Technology Center for class, working his after-school job at Schlotzsky’s and then going home to study.

But that’s not all. While interning at NPS, he completed his CompTia Net+ certification. He learned a lot as an unpaid intern, but he told his instructor, Todd Hendrickson, “I’d like to make some money.”

Hendrickson agreed it was time for Gordon to start getting compensated for his talents. He helped Gordon get a job with the Addison Group, running cable and providing an Ethernet network for T-Mobile during his senior year of high school. Gordon started at $15 an hour, but after he updated his resume to include his latest certification, his salary was bumped to $17 an hour.

In March 2022, two months before Gordon’s high school graduation, Dell approached him about a VxRail network support team they were putting together. VxRail is an appliance that provides networking, computing and management capabilities. Hendrickson helped Gordon prepare for an interview, and the high school senior was offered one of the 14 open positions. Gordon will work from home and earn a starting salary of $69,000 a year, plus benefits.

“The young man is ecstatic, and his future is set,” Hendrickson said, “and he hasn’t even graduated high school yet!”

As a technical support engineer, Gordon will troubleshoot customer issues with Dell’s VxRail, but he will also use his skills for personal projects, including cabling his house.

“I’m setting up a personal website to document my journey,” he said, “so that anyone who goes through the same journey has a potential guide.”

Consider Joining a CTSO

By Lee Denney

Taylor Frech didn’t feel like her local high school was enough of a challenge, so she decided to try something new. She said she didn’t even know what DECA was when she signed up to join, but she soon discovered it was exactly what she needed. 

DECA is a CareerTech student organization dedicated to preparing students in high school and college for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. Frech said DECA provided her the challenge she had been missing.

“I began to fall in love with coming to school each day,” she said, “and I found ways to challenge myself through the marketing program and DECA.”

Through DECA, Frech learned about the day-to-day operations of multiple businesses, became a better communicator, learned how to work as part of a team and made lifelong friendships with her DECA classmates.

Frech earned a bachelor’s degree in restaurant, hotel and institutional management. She now serves as revenue manager for Hilton’s corporate office and vice president of Hilton Helping Hands, Hilton’s service organization.

Frech said she uses the skills she learned from CareerTech every day in her professional and personal lives.

“CareerTech had enabled me with years of experience that others my age did not have,” she said. “It prepared me to take on each challenge and opportunity head-on.”

DECA is one of seven Oklahoma CTSOs that offer shared benefits for students, including leadership, public speaking, problem solving and organizational skills. In addition, students have opportunities to hold leadership positions at local, state and national levels and attend conferences to network with other students and industry leaders.

Joining a CTSO allows students to explore and pursue their interests, just as it did for Frech.

In fiscal 2022, more than 92,000 Oklahoma students learned important leadership skills as members of the state’s seven co-curricular student organizations: Business Professionals of America; DECA; Family, Career and Community Leaders of America; FFA; HOSA; SkillsUSA; and Technology Student Association.

The co-curricular organizations are designed to develop skills through curriculum, activities and competitions. They improve occupational competencies, enhance leadership skills, enrich classroom learning, promote career awareness, provide experimental learning, foster a sense of community and improve decision making.

Students who participate in CTSOs demonstrate higher levels of academic engagement and motivation, civic engagement, career self-efficacy and employability skills than other students. According to the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, participating in leadership and professional development activities in a CTSO raises students’ educational aspirations.

Career and technical education provides learners of all ages with career-ready skills that promote Oklahoma’s economic growth. It’s important to recognize the power of a skills-based education, which gives students the tools they need to succeed in the workplace, in education and in life.

Oklahoma is regularly recognized for having one of the best CareerTech systems in the nation, serving more than 444,000 students in fiscal 2022 through a network of 391 school districts, 29 technology centers, 15 skills centers and 32 Adult Education and Family Literacy providers.

CareerTech student organizations aren’t just important, they are essential to meeting Oklahoma’s workforce demands for today and tomorrow.

For more information about these student organizations and their missions, visit  

Lee Denney is the interim state director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. Denney served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2004 to 2016. During her last two years in office, she served as speaker pro tempore.