How PTK Gave Me a Competitive Edge

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Veronica Sanders, a member of the Sigma Tau Chapter at El Centro College in Texas.

Education has always been a priority of mine. Graduating at the top 25 percent of a high school class of over 1,000 graduates was a goal that I knew I could obtain. I had to give myself an extra push to obtain that goal given that I was a teenage mother of two boys, especially with naysayers telling me how I would never finish school or amount to anything.

It took me 10 years after graduating high school to not only find the sense to believe in myself again, but this was also when I finally found my purpose and the courage to go back to school. My husband was my biggest supporter, and my children were my driving force to start an educational career and pursue my dreams of becoming an interior designer.

I enrolled at El Centro College in 2013. It was at the Downtown Dallas campus that I would learn how being smart was not shunned, but instead rewarded through Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

When I was inducted, I gained the courage to take on a leadership role as the President-Elect of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) student chapter. The Competitive Edge courses and Honors program taught me leadership skills that I probably wouldn’t have learned from anywhere else other than self-help books.

Because of my newfound confidence in being a leader, I was offered a volunteer student leadership role on the ASID Dallas Design Community Board as the Student Liaison. I was the first to obtain that position and held it for three consecutive years.

Involvement in the community became a passion, and I spent a lot of my time volunteering with the PTK White Rock Lake Shoreline Spruce-Up, Habitat for Humanity, Dwell with Dignity and even Whole Foods. Volunteering taught me hands-on skills that I would need in my chosen career, but it also showed me the importance of giving back to the community and those in need.

It is also because of Phi Theta Kappa that I could transfer to UT Arlington and continue to further my education. Due to obtaining a PTK transfer scholarship, I am now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Interior Design. Since then, I have joined another honor society, as PTK showed me the value of being involved in academic organizations on campus.

I have had the courage to enter award competitions. I have won four from ASID — one of which was published in Luxe Interiors + Design magazine this fall, received multiple scholarships, and taken on multiple leadership roles in the community as well as on campus.

The leadership confidence that I gained through Competitive Edge has not only helped educationally, but in my career as well. In January 2016, I took on an internship with Mikel Welch. Welch is the CEO/Principal Designer of Mikel Welch, LLC; a Top 4 Finalist of HGTV’s Design Star Season 7; the former set designer for the Steve Harvey Show; and the personal interior designer for Steve Harvey.

Aside from the design skills I have gained through personal growth and education, the leadership skills I have learned through PTK have shone through in the workplace. In a matter of six months of employment, I went from making digital mood boards and renderings to Project Management and assisting in design for the Karli (Harvey) Raymond nursery, which was recently aired on the Steve Harvey Show, as well as the 2016 State Farm Neighborhood Awards. There I had the pleasure of working on product displays, stage designs, event space planning and even assisting with designing dressing rooms for celebrities.

The writing skills I have obtained from my education as well as through the Honors in Action research have helped me assist in writing design content that has been published in multiple magazines such as People, Ebony, and Brit + Co, and online for the firm with which I work.

I have been promoted from an intern to a Design Assistant and am working on high-end projects and continuing to pursue my design education. I plan to stay on track for graduation in May 2018 and continue to be a Hospitality or Aeronautics Interior Designer. I’ve even dabbled with the idea of getting a master’s degree so that I can teach interior design.

Phi Theta Kappa, encouragement from my loved ones, self-determination and God watching over me has given me a competitive edge. I see myself going nowhere but up from here. If you’re wondering if PTK can be a stepping stone to furthering your career and education, I’m here to tell you that if you get active in your local chapter, it can and it WILL!