By Nyesha Stone
This year, 2019, marks the 46th Annual SkillsUSA Wisconsin State Leadership and Skills Conference. The conference takes places on April 30-May 1. Students from Barack Obama School Career & Tech Ed Middle and High School and Bradley Tech High School will be participating in the conference, as well as competing on May 1, at Madison Area Technical College.
SkillsUSA is a nonprofit with the purpose of serving teachers, high school and college students that are preparing for a career in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, according to the press release.
The conference will have 1,800 middle and high school students, more than 300 teachers, and over 300 industry volunteers working in more than 80 competitions, the press release also stated.
The students will be competing in a list of competitions such as welding, open and close ceremony (speaking), first aid CPR and more.
The Department Chair of the CTE program at Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education, David Kontz said his students have been the state champs for years. It’s because of “their dedication and their ability to learn,” he said.
“They’re great kids,” Kontz said about his students. “They’re involved here every night after school.”
He continued: “The talent they have, there’s nobody in the state of Wisconsin that can beat these kids.”
Each week, Kontz gives his students a different programming set-up to do to prepare them for competition. His class is also a no-book class, meaning everything is online. So, Monday’s are for online research and learning, while Wednesday’s are dedicated to programming.
Kontz even breaks his classes down by semester—the first semester is the intro to robotics and the second semester is the actual programming.
One of his students Nathan Mason said he’s been preparing for competition by practicing his coding.
“I’m very excited,” said Mason. “I really like doing challenges.”
According to Kontz, Mason has the fastest CO2 race car in the state—that’s also the competition he will be competing in at state.
Kontz encourages other teachers to get involved in coding and robotics, but it also “takes a special type of teacher that’s interested in learning how to program robots,” he said. He’s tried to get other teachers involved in computer science, but it wasn’t a success.
Aside from the teachers, Kontz says 47 of his students will be participating, including team captain Temonie Kirk.
Kirk’s been on the team for three years and really isn’t sure how he got involved, but he enjoys every second of it.
“I don’t really have to practice now [because] it’s built in me,” said Kirk.
SkillsUSA, to Kirk, was a life changer. He said you’re bound to change once it’s all over. And just like Mason, Kirk likes a challenge.
“It’s okay to be different [and] it’s okay to change,” he said.
As for Bradley Tech, 20 students will be competing at state, according to the Coach of the BT SkillsUSA at Bradley Tech, Jeff Lemmer. This is their third year competing.
“We’re proud to be sending these students to represent [Bradley] Tech,” said Lemmer. “And we hope to bring back metals.”
As a digital media teacher, Lemmer incorporates web and ad design, including adobe software, into his classroom.
“We have a diverse range of students and talents,” said Lemmer, who is excited for the competition.
Student and president of Tech’s SkillsUSA Chapter, Mariah Erby will be competing in the open and ceremony competition. She won first place last year, but didn’t receive a perfect score, so that’s what she’s aiming for this time around.
Erby plans on using more tone and feeling in her voice because she wants people to feel her performance.
But most importantly, she wants to show that “we can compete against people at elite schools.”
Malyun Ali said it was her idea to create a group to compete in the open and ceremony competition—their group consist of seven girls.
Ali enjoys being a part of SkillsUSA because it’s preparing her, and other students, for the work force.
“It’s a really cool club to be involved in,” Ali said.
According to Ali, SkillsUSA teaches students the do’s and don’ts of an interview, gives feedback on how to sit during an interview and how to do a resume.
Ali plans on going to college for computer science and SkillsUSA is giving her the tools to accomplish that goal.
“I really enjoy computers and coding,” Ali said. “It’s definitely outside the box…something females don’t usually do.”
Barack Obama School and Bradley Tech are two MPS schools that are showing the rest of the city, and state, that greatness resides right inside of our public schools.
For more information on SkillsUSA, visit https://www.skillsusa.org/.