By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
In years past, teachers at the Madison County Area Technology Center may have had two to five high school students move on to the SkillsUSA Kentucky Leadership and Skills Conference, according to welding instructor James Mattox.
This year, however, 20 students placed in the March 7 regional competition, and 15 students have the opportunity to compete in April at the state competition in Louisville.
The SkillsUSA Club has grown a lot in the past couple of years, said Mattox, and consists of students from Madison Southern, Madison Central and Berea Independent high schools.
The state competition will test students’ abilities in several areas of technology, including welding, machining, auto mechanics, blueprint reading, electricity, carpentry and others.
“I want people to see what these young people are capable of,” said Mattox. In tech classes, “students get to see the dignity of hard work. They go above and beyond what is required. They spend a lot of time working on projects they don’t get a grade for.”
Most of his students have college aspirations, he said, but they also want to enter into a skilled trade.
“Employers of the future are looking for both ? educated and skilled workers,” said Mattox, who sees his students as the next leaders in local business.
“We see future teachers here; people who are going to influence our community,” he said. “They don’t know it yet, but with the leadership ability they are showing at this age, they are going to do very well for themselves. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Having the chance to compete at the state, then national, then perhaps the international level opens up scholarship opportunities and puts students in the same room with top industry contacts, he added.
At the March 7 regional competition, conducted at Bluegrass Community & Technical College in Lexington, Madison County students competed against students from Clark, Fayette, Franklin, Harrison, Mercer and Lincoln counties.
Central seniors Wallace Reams, Alex Still and Jeremy Rader won first place in the welding fabrication competition. The three-man team was required to create a trailer-hitch attachment in three hours.
Berea seniors Calypso Rucker and Elysha Campbell took first and second place, respectively, in the the welding sculpture competition. They turned in completed works, but were required to submit a portfolio that detailed their process. They also were interviewed at the competition to demonstrate their leadership skills, Mattox said.
Southern senior Hunter Parks won first place in vertical stick welding.
Corey Lamb and Kelley Newell, both Central seniors, along with sophomore, Paul Rader, placed first in automated manufacturing.
Students also placed in other skill-oriented contests.
Central seniors Kendra Bond and Seaerra Lynch placed first for their pre-choreographed clogging routine. They will preform again at the state competition.
Kristen Pittman, also a Central senior, took second place in a competition that tested her spelling of technical terms used across all industries in manufacturing.
Central senior Paige Green won second place for a chapter display that portrayed all of the club’s skills while Berea senior Rachel Long also took second-place for her poster representing technical skill programs.
Morgan Butler, a Central junior, won third place in extemporaneous writing. Because that category is so competitive, said Mattox, third place will qualify her for state.
Five other students, Austin Cooper, Taylor Young, Joseph Sparks, Mason Dulaney and Chase Lear placed third in their categories, but it did not qualify them for the state competition.
Each student needs $120 to compete in the SkillsUSA Kentucky Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, April 16-19. Over the next week, students will be working hard to raise the funds from sponsors throughout the community, but they need help. To donate, stop by the Madison County Area Technology Center, 703 N. Second St., Richmond, or call 624-4520. Make checks payable to the SkillsUSA Club. Cash will be accepted. Those who donate $25 or more will receive a copper rose hand-crafted by the students. Any donations of services or products will be raffled.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.