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Yuma students compete at SkillsUSA conference
High school and college-age students from Yuma County recently traveled to Kansas City, Mo., to compete at the 49th Annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference against students who are considered “the best of the best” from across the country.
Nearly 6,000 Career and Technical Education (CTE) students competed in 98 hands-on different trade, technical and leadership fields. Around 15,000 people were present at the conference including advisors and volunteers.
Lorie Honeycutt with CTE at the Yuma Union High School District, said that students from Yuma fared well at competition. In some categories, she said, they received as honors as high as third-place.
Honeycutt noted that this is especially impressive considering the caliber of the students from technical schools around the U.S. that Yuma students were up against.
She explained that at technical schools, which Yuma doesn't currently have for high school students, a student's core classes like English and math classes, for example, are all geared toward their future career interests.
“These kids from the technical schools live and breathe the programs that they're in, so for our kids to be competitive against them is just wonderful,” said Honeycutt.
“The competition is always challenging... they say the top 10 percent make it to nationals and only one percent of those win, so it's definitely putting the kids through the ropes and making it as challenging as possible.”
Jesse Dominguez, Daniel Bayona and Misael Lopez, who made up a three-student team from Kofa High School, were awarded third-place in secondary welding fabrication.
Dominguez said that while the competition was stressful, their team ended up finishing the six and a half hour event with an hour to spare. He shared that the welding fabrication competition required students to build a working cart with a removable workstation based on the design and blueprints that they themselves created.
Arizona Western College welding student Omar Macias also received a bronze medal at the competition, but his was in the post-secondary prepared speech category.
Macias said that he had no less than five minutes and no more than seven minutes to give a speech on how being at the SkillsUSA competition helped prepare him for the future. After doing well in the first portion of the competition, he advanced to the finals with four other competitors and received third place.
“Getting on stage in front of 15,000 people to receive a medal is pretty sweet. The experience itself was just awesome; getting a medal was just icing on the cake,” he said.
Last year Macias placed eighth in the same competition at nationals.
Kofa student Michael Butler placed eighth out of 35 students in the secondary power equipment technology category. After placing 24th in the same competition last year, he said that he was ecstatic to reach his goal of at least making it in the top 10.
Butler said that he hopes to continue on with SkillsUSA when he attends the University of Arizona in the fall and also to become an alumni of the program to help further improve it at the state and local levels.
Additionally, Kofa student Isaiah Gaspar placed 11th in secondary welding out of 46 students.
As this was his first time competing at nationals as a junior, he said, “It was pretty challenging... Now I know a lot more of what to expect and what to practice and kind of what they're looking for, I'm just going to keep on practicing and hopefully do better next year.”
Also, a team made up of Kofa students Zachary Roe and Austin Roden as well as Gila Ridge student Austin Walton placed 11th out of 22 students in the secondary career pathways showcase in firefighting. Last year, the team of firefighting students from YUHSD received 12th place at nationals.
In the post-secondary welding fabrication category, a team of students from AWC including Adrian Castillo, Manuel Robles and Chris Smart received ninth place out of 23 students.
Other students who participated at nationals included Gerardo Aldana, Antelope High School, Carpentry; Pam Dusek, Commercial Baking; Ricardo Aldana, AWC, Welding Sculpture; Trish Haswood, AWC, Job Skill Demonstration; and Darold Natseway, AWC, Culinary Arts. Also, three students from Cibola High School were named to the new state officer team: Carlos Moreno, Kelly Clark and Julissa Moreno.
Larry Lebsock, Director of Early College Experience Arizona Western College, echoed Honeycutt's sentiments and said that the students and their advisors should be exceedingly proud of their accomplishments, especially considering how Yuma does not currently have any technical schools or a joint technical education district (JTED) that provide intensified job-specific training.
“The competition is very stiff at nationals, and in spite of the fact that Yuma doesn't have a JTED or any intense vocational training, other than what the college and the high schools provide, they do a stellar job in providing quality education for our students,” he said.
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.
Larry Lebsock, Director of Early College Experience Arizona Western College, was recently awarded with SkillsUSA's highest award at the national leadership and skills conference.
Lebsock was recognized as a National Honorary Life Member of SkillsUSA before a crowd of 15,000 during an opening ceremony.
The award is given for outstanding service that advances the purposes and goals of the national organization.
Lebsock began his career at Kofa High School in 1973 where he taught welding and became a SkillsUSA member. In 1976 he organized the first Arizona Regional I competition which has been held for the last 38 years, 28 of which were at AWC.
Lebsock also taught electronics, technical math and television production and served as a SkillsUSA advisor at the high school level.
While many of his students have been awarded a number of gold medals in all levels of the SkillsUSA competition, two of his students earned the Professional Development Program's International Degree.
He later began working at AWC in 2007 as a Technology Preparation director. In his current role as the director of early college experience, he works with dual credit courses and building partnerships between high schools, AWC and various employers. While at AWC, Lebsock has developed 36 career pathways to help students transition from high school, to an associate's program to a career.
“Even 40 years doesn't seem like enough time to put together the kinds of accomplishments Larry Lebsock has been able to assemble over his career,” said Tim Lawrence, executive director of SkillsUSA. “He has positively influenced the lives of so many young people during his career, including his own children; his son John and daughter Angila both won gold at the SkillsUSA Championships.”
Lebsock said simply that it was quite an honor to receive this award.
“It makes you feel good that people notice what you're doing and take the time to put your name up to the SkillsUSA board of directors,” he said. “Whereas I feel really good about this and I'm very proud of it, it's the kids that we're doing this for.”
Visit www.skillsusa.org for more information about the program.