DOWNEY – The first annual SkillsUSA Banquet was held at the Rio Hondo Event Center on June 11, as , the Downey community gathered to celebrate the students and staff advisors who traveled to San Diego to compete at the state level in the SkillsUSA Championships. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled work force. It was formerly known as Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA).
Begun in 1967, the SkillsUSA Championships has grown from 54 competitors in three contests to more than 6,000 competitors in 99 hands-on skill and leadership contests. Adding contests to the championships to meet the demands of new and expanding occupations, their affiliated instructional programs represent 130 different occupational areas.
Beginning the SkillsUSA journey in 2009 with a team of four Warren High School (WHS) construction students, to currently over 350 students and administrators from WHS and Downey High School (DHS), the Downey chapter has hit SkillsUSA by storm.
Currently with 15,000 school chapters, the Downey Unified School District (DUSD) is the largest chapter involved in SkillsUSA, with one or more students qualifying for Nationals every year since 2009.
This year alone, 350 students competed at the Regional Championships, 145 qualified for the State Championships and seven have made it to Nationals traveling to Kansas City, Mo at the end of June.
The banquet began with Mistresses of Ceremony Gia Marciano, a DHS senior, and Joseline Dubon, a WHS senior, welcoming guests and describing their journey through the SkillsUSA experience. Both competing in the category of Extemporaneous Speaking, one taking gold and the other taking silver at the SkillsUSA State Championship, these young ladies said they have been changed by CTE and SkillsUSA.
“SkillsUSA and CTE molds leaders,” said Dubon. “It builds what America will be in the future; it builds the leaders of America.”
Continuing the evening, Marciano and Dubon called on each advisor to congratulate their students in specific areas of the competition. Downey and Warren High School students competed in categories such as: 3D Animation, Sports Therapy, Digital Animation Production, Culinary Arts, Electrical Construction Wiring, Medical Math, Mobile Robotics Technology, First Aid and CPR, and the list continues.
One area of competition was most prominent, the President’s Volunteer Services Award (PVSA). Located in the leadership area of SkillsUSA, the Downey Unified School District surpassed all other districts throughout the country, with over 50 student volunteers from both high schools. Recipients receive an official lapel pin, personalized certificate of achievement, and a congratulatory letter from the president.
Following the applause of the PVSA recognition, keynote speaker Laura Gouillon took the stage. A recent high school graduate and International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidate from Petaluma, Gouillon is a dedicated individual. She currently serves as a student ambassador for CTE through her services as this year’s SkillsUSA National High School Vice President and will be attending USC in the fall to study computer engineering and computer science.
In her address, she stressed to students the importance of the letter E.
“In school, people put too much focus on the letters: A, B, C, D and F; how about the letter E, lets solve for E”, stated Gouillon. “Evolve yourself, seek epic eternal excellence…”
As she continued her speech, a stillness came over the crowd as she reached not only the students in attendance, but parents, administrators, and school board members.
To conclude the SkillsUSA Banquet, the awards for Student of the Year were given to one student from each high school. Isaac Lopez, a senior at WHS, was called to the stage. Attending New Mexico State in the fall for Civil Engineering, receiving a silver medal last year at the SkillsUSA State Championships and currently the President of the Technology Club, Lopez was commended for a unique skill set and meticulous work ethic that made him a recipient of this year’s award.
Mistress of Ceremony and DHS senior, Gia Marciano, was also presented the Student of the Year award. She is president of the Debate Club, competed in the SkillsUSA State Championships for two consecutive years, and will attend Harvard in the fall.
Seven gold medal state champions will now travel to Kansas City on June 25 to compete with over 6,000 contestants in this year’s SkillsUSA National Championships, the largest number of Downey Unified students to reach the national level thus far.
Published: June 19, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 10