This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
By Harvey Finkle
By the eighth grade, Jordan Miller thought he knew what he wanted to do with his life: be a civil engineer so that he could fix Philadelphia’s bridges. Throughout most of high school, he pursued that goal. But that all changed when he reached the 11th grade.
“When I got to my junior year, civil engineering took a back burner and I found my passion, and where I wanted to be was graphic design.”
After deciding to attend his neighborhood high school, Northeast, he needed to choose a small learning community that would function as his shop. This group of students took classes together and were focused on the same skills in their CTE classes.
Miller chose the Applied Visual & Interactive Design (AVID) program and took classes in film and video, printing, graphic design, and web and game design.
Each year, students take a cluster of classes that fall into one of the categories. This is intended to help students get a better understanding of what the career field has to offer. Miller felt it also allowed students to learn what they enjoyed and avoid the hassle of switching programs.
Being able to take several different types of classes within one shop, Miller said, was one reason he decided on Northeast and the AVID program. This gave him the ability to decide what areas of the program he liked and disliked.
Of his classes, Miller, now 19, said that he liked web design the most, because it was interactive and he was able to test his skills. He called game design an acquired taste that he did not develop.
As juniors, Miller and his friends also revived an old program called the Technical Student Association, which allowed them to run their own business within the school. They created products ranging from coffee mugs and T-shirts to phone cases and license plates.
Miller was proud to sell the products and enjoyed seeing people’s reactions when they learned that students had designed them.
“The first best part was making a deal. The second best part was getting the money and making sure the customers were happy,” he said. “[That] was a really valuable experience.”
Of his high school accomplishments, Miller said that his favorite memory was designing his senior class pin.
“Now, every single graduating senior from that class has that pin, that I created, and knowing that they are going to take that with them the rest of their lives is really cool,” Miller said.
After graduating from his CTE program in 2014, Miller attended Montgomery County Community College. There he continued to study graphic design.
“High school didn’t prepare me completely for college, because it is so different, but it prepared me as best as it could for college. And now college is preparing me as best as it can for the rest of my life.”
In the spring of 2016, Miller will receive his associate’s degree in graphic design and he plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the same field at a university. After that, he hopes to get an internship or work for an illustration company owned by a friend.
The AVID program at Northeast, he said, “really set me up for success and now it is just on me to follow through with that and succeed for myself.”
Samantha Weiss was an intern at the Notebook this summer.