Starting a CTSO Chapter

CTSOs are an essential component of CTE today. The Association for Career and Technical Education recognizes 11 CTSOs, each catering to a different career cluster. Studies have shown, students who participate in CTSO organizations show higher levels of motivation, academic engagement and career aspirations.

Getting Started 

While starting a CTSO as an advisor can be intimidating, there are many resources within each organization to support new chapters. To start a CTSO chapter at your school, begin by identifying the state-approved CTSO that best aligns with your CTE content area. Next, locate the organization's information about the operating requirements for a chapter. This information can usually be found on the state's organization website (start with a simple google search with your state and the name of the CTSO). Most state CTSO websites identify representatives or regional supervisors who you can contact with any questions. Additionally, it may help to reach out to local chapters' advisors to hear about their experiences. Each CTSO chapter is unique in size, goals and school support system, so consider how their experiences may relate to your own school.

IIt is important to obtain school and school district approval now that you have identified which CTSO to bring to your campus. Before this meeting, be prepared with the organization's philosophy, mission and connections to the curriculum. When approaching administration, be familiar with the literature supporting CTSOs and how it can directly support students. It is also helpful to review the organization's handbook and guide to starting a chapter to be equipped to answer any questions.

Building Momentum

Once the new chapter has been approved, it is time to start recruiting members! One of the easiest places to start is with the students in your classes. Take class time to share information about the CTSO, how it relates to the content and where students can learn more information. It may also help integrate CTSO competitions into class activities, so students are exposed to all the CTSO offers.

 Additionally, hold an informational meeting at lunch or after school to connect with other students. Be sure to publicize the informational meeting using all school communications such as daily announcements, flyers, bulletins, the school website and informational calls to parents. At the meeting, discuss the benefits of being a member of the organization, the opportunities for personal growth, conferences, competitive events and answer any questions. If possible, it may also be helpful to have a CTSO state representative or director there to help you field any questions.

Sustaining the CTSO Chapter

Now that a group of students are interested in the CTSO, it is time to develop a student leadership team. CTSOs are student-led, meaning the student leadership team guides the chapter and its activities. The leadership team should mimic the state and national CTSO organization structure, which usually consists of a president, a vice president, secretary, treasurer and parliamentarian.

The first thing the advisor and student leadership team should do is draft a chapter constitution and bylaws. These items determine how the chapter will conduct business and handle issues that may arise. Common items within the constitution include officer duties, election procedures, meeting schedules and member responsibilities. Most CTSO organizations provide a template for these two documents. Once the constitution and bylaws are written, they must be ratified by the membership and then maintained by the leadership team.

Within a constitution and leadership team, it is time to affiliate the chapter with the national office to be considered official and participate in sponsored events. Most CTSOs require an application to the state and national offices. Be sure to check the state and national organization websites to identify deadlines. Additionally, affiliation requires student members to pay a membership fee, so work with school administration to determine if this fee will be student-paid, school-paid or done with fundraising activities. Only students affiliated with the state and national organizations can participate in competitions and conferences.

Once you have affiliated members and an established chapter structure, work with the leadership team to develop a calendar of activities to engage members throughout the school year. Consider activities that will continue to generate student interest in content related to the CTSO, such as guest speakers, hands-on learning, large group discussions, community service, leadership development and even mini-competitions that mock the CTSO competitions. Activities specific to student interests and needs are the most successful events. If you are confident in your leadership team, assign each member (or partners) to be responsible for one meeting, and support them in their planning.

About the Author



Rachelle Blinoff-Mudd, Instructional Content Specialist, brings unique experiences and passion to the CEV team. Blinoff-Mudd studied sports medicine at Boston University and later earned her master’s degree in education administration. Upon graduating, she began her career as an athletic trainer and later served as a high school CTE teacher.

Blinoff-Mudd developed her passion for CTE while serving as an athletic trainer and teaching health science courses. As a CTE teacher, she taught Sports Medicine, Human Anatomy and Biotechnology courses.