A Plan for Life

LOS ANGELES (July 20, 2012) - "I was blown away. It was one of the greatest feelings in my life," beamed Don Runyan, a drafting instructor at Cleveland High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Runyan’s reaction came after recently receiving the prestigious SkillsUSA National Advisor of the Year award during a national conference in Kansas City, Mo. in front of 14,000 people. "This has been a dream of mine for me to be in the running for Advisor of the Year for SkillsUSA," he said. 

His passion is helping students develop and grow their skills and knowledge. As a nationwide partnership of students, instructors and industry, SkillsUSA helps build the U.S. skilled workforce. The organization helps every student excel.

“Every student has potential,” said Runyan. “Our job as instructors is to unlock that potential. I don’t believe in failures.”

When counselors bring students to Runyan’s architecture/drafting class, he sees the look of rejection on their faces and in their body language. He immediately accepts them.  Though his class only seats 31 pupils, by the end of the school year, he has 92 students in his 7 a.m. class – with standing room only. If students can stand up to get an education, he reasons, “I’m willing to take them.”

His architecture/drafting, urban planning class develops curriculum for urban city planning and other potential careers. He teaches students to understand how communities are developed and formed.

Runyan has been teaching for nearly 40 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He has numerous stories.

About a decade ago, Danny (a student whose name was changed to protect his privacy) joined the SkillsUSA program.  Over the course of his schooling, his family moved every year. Once, the teacher and student returned from a conference only to learn that Danny’s family had left. The apartment was empty. They moved away while Danny attended a SkillsUSA conference.  

Despite many obstacles, Runyan helped Danny graduate from Cleveland High School. Eight years later, Danny came back to talk to the new students in Runyan’s class, and shared with them how his life turned around. Danny later hired some of the students for the company he managed.

Because of successes like these, Runyan has never missed a conference in 28 years. The experience rejuvenates and inspires him. 

As a national advisor, he strives to develop quality vocational training programs, such as Career Technical Education, with a strong leadership component, and to train advisors using the keys of success he experimented with over the past 40 years.

There are 330,000 students in SkillsUSA nationwide paired with 6,000 advisors/instructors nationwide. Runyan is proud to be among them.

The reason for Runyan’s success, according to another former student, is his ability “to look at each student and see a winner.”

Contact: Monica Carazo (213) 241-6766

Photo: Don Runyan

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