SkillsUSA 2016 SLC Recap

April 29, 2016

The annual SkillsUSA State Leadership and Skills Conference is in the books, and this year’s SLC was a great one for the LHS chapter. This was Lexington’s second year to participate in the conference that was held in Omaha at the CenturyLink Convention Center, the DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center, and Metropolitan Community College. The three-day event began on Wednesday, April 20th, when over 1,600 students and advisors packed the Grand Ballroom at the DoubleTree to attend the opening ceremonies. SkillsUSA members were welcomed by some V.I.P’s from business and industry from Omaha and the surrounding areas, witnessed a few award presentations, and listened to the National Director of SkillsUSA, Tim Lawrence, talk about SpongeBob SquarePants being a satisfied employee. He also shared some great insight about being a Champion at Work, which can be achieved by doing your very best. He spoke of his participation at his very first SLC in West Virginia where he competed as a high-school participant in the welding competition. He didn’t take home a medal from that conference but he had an experience that laid the foundation that eventually lead to an amazing career—he is now the leader of a national organization that annually has over 300,000 members.   

Lexington HS had 32 students participate in a variety of contests such as Advertising Design, Automotive Service Technology, Cabinetmaking, Crime Scene Investigation, Medical Terminology, Welding, and Welding Fabrication. This being my 10th SLC as an advisor, I have had plenty of preparation leading up to my first SLC with Lexington and my first SLC taking over 20 students. My fellow advisor, Jim Hoyt, was a tremendous asset and a great bus driver. Together, we were able to get our students pointed in the right directions for their contest orientation meetings, delegate assemblies and their contests. Most of the contests, especially the skill contests, began on Thursday morning at either the CenturyLink or at one of the MCC locations in Omaha. As a welding teacher and a person who loves competition, the second day at the state conference is probably one of my favorite days for the year. The long hours spent preparing for competition day helps build the level of anticipation for both the students and their advisors. Tim Lawrence did a great job of communicating the importance of doing your best during his message to the students, and at the end of the day, that’s all an advisor can ever ask of his/her students.

There’s no doubt that the heart of every SLC is the contests, but the students always enjoy the other moments like the social and the opportunities to interact with their peers from other high schools from across the state. SkillsUSA seems to attract a certain type of student who enjoys the energized environment that is created by motivated students. Eighty-three percent of the LHS students who completed the post-SLC survey said they would highly recommend SkillsUSA to a friend. The majority of students who answered the survey also said that they would be extremely likely to attend another SLC, given the opportunity. The state conference seems to be an event that students really enjoy attending. The awards ceremony on Friday definitely helped make this year’s conference a memorable experience for a handful of Lexington students.

Five Lexington HS students earned themselves a few moments on stage where they were recognized for their great performances in their competitions. Senior, Blake Casper, took 1st place in the Automotive Service Technology contest. He was awarded a “gold” medallion, a state championship banner, a $10k scholarship to Universal Technical Institute (UTI) and a Snap-On tool set valued at $270. Blake qualified for the National Leadership and Skills Conference, which will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, in June. Carlos Aguilar-Velasquez was awarded 2nd place in the Gas Metal Arc Welding (MIG) contest. I know that no one has outworked this LHS sophomore this year in the welding shop and the recognition is well deserved! The Welding Fabrication team composed of Sam Seberger, Maxwell Kerr, and Noah Sarnes brought home a third-place trophy for their work at the CenturyLink during the two previous days. Their gas metal arc welding, shielded metal arc welding and oxy-fuel cutting skills were put to the test along with their abilities to read and interpret blueprints. Teamwork is a key component of the Welding Fabrication contest and these three students did a great job working together to get the job done.

The Lexington chapter of SkillsUSA had a successful 2016 SLC, and we’re extremely proud of our member who will be representing our state at the national conference this summer. Lex students had some great times in Omaha and shared some experiences that will hopefully motivate them to recruit some of their classmates to join the chapter, next fall. I look forward to an even bigger and better year for SkillsUSA Lexington in the 2016-17 school year.