State Officer Blog: Using TSA Skills in the Real World

Sam Catania's picture

After pouring countless hours into our events, it can be difficult to see how the skills we’ve used will actually carry over into our real lives. I sometimes find myself internally asking things like “What is the plan of work log legitimately contributing to my project?” or “Why do we have to waste time writing LEAP resumes when we could just say all of these things in an interview?” The connection between seemingly arbitrary tasks and making real change in the world can seem blurry. Even if we can see where some binder pages will carry over into careers, sometimes they seem overly simplified and more or less useless in the long run. I don’t disagree with that assessment, but I think that the value of TSA extends beyond pages in binders, and I believe that value is best expressed with a personal story.

Last year, I found out that my township intended to pass a rule banning the use of drones in parks. Apparently, people had complained that they were loud and annoying and shouldn’t be allowed. However, as an avid drone photographer and lover of all things that fly, I had some major problems with the proposal! I felt that the proposed rule categorized all drone flyers into one group–– bad ones–– when in fact only a tiny percentage of people were being disrespectful with their quadcopters. I learned that the meeting discussing the ordinance was that night and so I quickly wrote up a speech summarizing my key points and drove over to the township building, where I delivered my testimony during the time period known as ‘public comment.’ Then, after lots of waiting, the vote happened. One by one, I watched as each commissioner gave a brief statement on their thoughts, and then voted. One voted against it. Then one for it, back and forth the entire way! In the end, the vote was 7 to 7. The motion had not reached a majority, and so drones were not banned in parks!

I was amazed. The board president made a brief comment afterward, commending me on my speech. He told me that before the meeting, every single member was for the change and that I had swayed half of their votes in my three-minute argument.

As I thought more and more about what had made me successful, I couldn’t help but connect the whole thing to my experiences in TSA. In fact, most of the things seemed to relate in some way, a few in some unexpected ways. Before I began to write my speech, I had to figure out how long I could speak for and when I’d be allowed to. Searching through the dense government website reminded me of finding competition updates and official rules on tsaweb.org. It takes a good amount of skill to figure out where to look that we often take for granted! When I first found out about the proposal, the meeting was in less than a day. The time crunch was all too similar to some of the on-sight events I participate in TSA, where maximizing efficiency and prioritizing my writing on certain parts of the speech was key to success. I tied in researching skills I had learned from many of my binder events to build my arguments effectively. I wouldn’t have learned how to research nearly as well or as quickly with my school education alone. Countless semi-finalist interviews and presentations had given me the confidence I needed to effectively deliver my remarks to an important group of elected officials.

As our newly elected National TSA President said this year in June, “The sky is NOT the limit, for I am limitless!” and he couldn’t be more right about TSA. Our organization prepares its members in far more ways that we’d expect, and you never know where those seemingly routine skills, the ones we use just about every day in our organization, might come in and save the day when you least expect them to!

Sincerely,

Sam Catania, PA-TSA Reporter