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Navigating Life Through Design

As a fashion design instructor at Silicon Valley Career Technical Education (SVCTE) in San Jose, California, Johnny Paul Vera is committed to engaging his students in real-world academics and skill development. An educator for the last thirteen years, he recently completed his Masters in Education Leadership and helps students explore self-expression through visual and performing arts as a way to problem-solve and navigate life’s challenges.

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“We have students from all walks-of-life,” he says. “In fact, many of them have taken FIDM to their home campuses and started FIDM Fashion Clubs.”

The largest CTE center in northern California, SVCTE serves six school districts within Santa Clara County, and Mr. Vera’s impact is measurable.

This past spring, Mr. Vera and his students hosted a pop-up shop where students could sell their wares. He credits FIDM Representative Brooke Ewoldson for coming up with the idea. “Brooke suggested a makers’ market, and gave the students tips on how to fully develop an idea into real life,” he says.

In addition to the pop-up, Mr. Vera sponsors Winter Brunch, an annual holiday event at SVCTE. The culinary department provides a festive meal, and the design students receive training and encouragement in soft skills, such as etiquette and the importance of dressing for an occasion. The students present ideas for projects during the brunch, thus giving them an opportunity to hone their public speaking skills and providing them additional insight into industry expectations.

Yet for Mr. Vera, the event goes much deeper. “These past few years have been difficult for kids,” he explains. “Many of them may not be able to celebrate the holidays at home for various reasons. This gives them a delicious meal with a delicious experience while they learn.”

Mr. Vera grew up in Orange County and attended Roosevelt School of the Arts in Fresno. When his former fashion design instructor retired, he returned to his alma mater to teach the subject, and his career as an educator began. A fashion designer in his own right, he owned his own company where he designed for Miss America pageants, and has been featured in New York’s prestigious Surface Magazine.

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When asked to describe his ideal student, Mr. Vera says it’s those students who are willing to learn, who are excited, and possess a passion for design. “I teach from the viewpoint of how I would have liked to have been taught,” he says.

Looking for more resources for your students? Learn more about FIDM Fashion Club.