On weekday afternoons, a handful of high school sophomores, juniors and seniors are bringing their dreams and ideas to life at Southwest Technical Education District of Yuma (STEDY).
Through the district’s two-year animation program — a career and technical education (CTE) course — these students are wielding 2-D and 3-D design skills to illustrate and give motion to stories, graphics and, ultimately, a career path.
“There’s a big, big demand for animators right now,” said the program’s instructor, Erick Olivas.
For the last year or so, animation jobs have been on the rise as Netflix and other streaming services have given the medium a sort of revival, surging the need for skilled artists in all areas of animation production.
In the classroom (or studio, as they prefer to call it), students are acquiring all the hands-on experience and expertise they need to land in one of those positions.
During the first year of the program, they focus on pinning down the basics, learning to create characters, scripts and storyboards before segueing into 3-D projects the second year. At the end of it all, they’ll walk away with industry certifications in Adobe Animate and Autodesk MAYA, as well as a robust portfolio spotlighting their skills.
“They have a place here to showcase their talent and refine their niche,” said STEDY curriculum, instruction and assessment specialist Julie Rodriguez. “They’re also learning those soft skills like collaboration and teamwork, how to give and take constructive criticism and work in different roles within their projects.”
In the realm of animation, vocational opportunity is a wide road branching in a myriad of directions. Beyond movie-making, opportunities abound in the medical field, criminology, architectural and environmental design, special effects and advertising.
“Animation touches a lot of different career paths,” Olivas said. “There’s no end to what they could apply to.”
As for Olivas, he’s invested in the program largely to provide students with opportunities that weren’t around when he was in school.
“Graphic design was the closest thing (to animation) that was offered when I was in school,” he said. “I started animating on an analog black and white tablet when I was about 6 or 7. Any time I could get my hands on a computer, I was looking up videos and tutorials on YouTube. I sought it out any way I could.”
These days, student animators don’t have to search very hard. The program is open to all Yuma County students attending public, private, charter and home schools. To enroll, visit stedycte.org/admission.