35 Years of PA-TSA … and Onward

This year, as we descend on Seven Springs, we will be having our 35th Pennsylvania State Conference.  I can hardly believe that it has been that long.  At the same time, I marvel at our growth, as well as our impact on the national organization.  I am fortunate and honored to have been a part of our formation and to be associated with it for those 35 years.  In 1978, four chapters formed across the state.  I, as advisor to the Conestoga Valley chapter, along with advisors from Ambridge, Garden Spot, and Norristown, met in Harrisburg to form our state organization.  In March of 1978, I traveled with our first state president, Joe Gerz, and two other students to Atlanta, Georgia to charter Pennsylvania, along with 16 other states, to form the national organization AIASA, as TSA was then called.  For the past 35 years, in Pennsylvania, we have grown from those 4 chapters to 152 chapters this year.  Interestingly enough, those 152 chapters only represent slightly less than 70% of the total number of chapters that have formed in the state over those years.  There have been at least 222 chapters affiliated in Pennsylvania since 1978, meaning we have lost more than 70 chapters over the years.  That is sad.  While getting new chapters to join is a good thing, it is just as important, if not more so, to try to do what we can to keep the ones we have.  As an organization, we need to do more to understand why chapters drop out or fail, and do what we can to support and mentor them, especially newly formed chapters and overwhelmed new advisors.  I know current state officers are starting to pursue this, and I encourage future officers to make it one of their priorities.

As previously mentioned, Pennsylvania TSA has been, and continues to make, an impact on the national organization.  Our delegation numbers at the national conference every year may not necessarily be the highest, but they are in the top 5%.  When it comes to voting on issues and candidates, the Pennsylvania delegation is a force to be considered seriously in its impact on the outcome.  Our participants excel in the competitions, frequently capturing 10% to 15% of the trophies and over 50% of the finalist positions.  This is no accident.  It’s the result of the intense demand of our own regional and state competitions that necessitates all participants doing their very best to prepare for the competitions.  Pennsylvania TSA is very fortunate to not only have advisors who are aware of the fierce competition within our state, and push their students to their absolute best, but also to have very dedicated conference directors, judges, and volunteers, as well as a dedicated board of directors that does its best to see that the conferences are the best they can be.

Over these years I have seen another growth that warms me.  A few graduated TSA members have become advisors themselves, or are serving as judges, and/or serving in some other leadership capacity in the organization.  Some have become leaders in the business and industrial world and, remembering what TSA helped them achieve, are giving back to the organization financially and otherwise.  Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend, which will be a welcome addition to our growth. This quote from one such leader states it well.  “Many of the talents we look for in prospective employees are learned through participation in PA-TSA’s cutting-edge atmosphere, which fosters the development of advanced technology and leadership skills.  PA-TSA students graduate with an understanding of what it means ‘to work hard in order to accomplish a goal,’ the same simple guiding principle that has made us the company we are today.”

It is my hope that, as we continue through the next 35 years, we will see more of this type of growth as well…more and more graduated TSA members giving back to PA-TSA.  I know that part of the problem that causes us to lose chapters is the cost to its members because of the loss of school funding.  The main goal of the PA-TSA Foundation, which has gotten started this year, is to seek funds to help offset the costs for TSA students to attend conferences, as well as assist those who wish to pursue post-secondary education.  I encourage all students, past and present, not to forget PA-TSA once you have graduated from high school or college.  You have made an impact already by your participation as a student.  After you graduate, continue to make an impact by joining the PA-TSA Alumni Association, becoming an advisor, volunteering as a judge, serving on a committee, or sponsoring (or getting your employer to sponsor) scholarships and grants through donations to the foundation.  What a grand organization we would be if all of you continued to be a part of PA-TSA for the next 35 years.


John “Doc” Bratton
Executive Director