Students and instructors from the Fred Eberle Technical Center traveled to the SkillsUSA’s 55th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Pictured are, front, from left, Chad McKisic, Caroline Fluke, Mary Hull, Taylor Chapman, Autumn Yoakum, Amie Hawkins and Autumn Lyons; back row, Charles Smith, Mike Murray, Vincent Landis, Robert Lowther, Ben Jarrell, John Kahl and Anthony Dahman. Not pictured: Johnelle Goss / Photo courtesy of Fred Eberle Technical Center

BUCKHANNON – West Virginia winners in the SkillsUSA Competition from Fred Eberle Technical Center made the journey to compete in the National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, where they showcased their career and technical education skills.

They joined more than 15,000 others from across the United States, including students, teachers and business partners.

The SkillsUSA competition had more than 6,300 state contest winners who competed in more than 100 trade, technical and leadership fields. It also showcased leadership contestants as they demonstrated their skills including extemporaneous speaking and conducting meetings following parliamentary procedure.

Robert Lowther, electrical instructor at Fred Eberle Technical Center, said there were eight students who competed during the SkillsUSA competition.

“We had competitors in diesel technology, automotive service technology, electrical construction wiring, health professions portfolio, medical math, cosmetology and internet working,” Lowther said. “We had a seventh-place winner in the health professions portfolio. We also had two state officers.”

Lowther said the competitors did a great job.

“We are very proud of them,” Lowther said. “It’s a feat to get to the national contest – students must come in first in the state to get there. it’s an honor just to get to go to the national contest and offers students leadership experiences. The kids get experiences they may not get otherwise.”

Lowther said aside from the competition, participants enjoyed dining out, going to an amusement park, attending a baseball game and seeing a street performance by a country music performer.

“The overall leadership and opportunities they receive while attending this conference is incredible,” Lowther said. “We are proud of each and every one who participated.”

Johnelle Goss is the state SkillsUSA secretary. She said she enjoyed the experience of attending the conference.

“My favorite part was making new friends,” Johnelle said. “I met people from far away, from Colorado and Texas. I got their addresses and am excited to keep in touch with them.”

High school senior Autumn Lyons is the state SkillsUSA historian.

“This was my first time attending the nationals,” Autumn said. “I got to meet a lot a new people and learn new skills. It was a great experience.”

Autumn Yoakum, who will be a senior this upcoming school year, competed in the health occupations portfolio contest and placed seventh nationally.

“Competing was a lot of fun,” Autumn Yoakum said. “It was a great experience to get to go and meet a bunch of new people from all over the United States. It was a good way to know other people and learn about their culture. It was a fun competition – I really didn’t get that nervous as I was competing. It was good to talk to other competitors and share our feelings about this skill.”

Post-secondary student Vincent Landis competed in internet working. He said his favorite part of the national competition was getting to compete with others.

“It was good because I got to meet some good people and network with others from different states,” Landis said. “I think talking with and meeting others was my favorite part of the trip.”

Anthony Dahman, a graduating senior, competed in the diesel technology contest.

“I think I did pretty good considering it was a national competition, but you can always do better,” Anthony said. “Everything started coming back to me after I finished the competition – so I know what I need to work on and what I need to do to be better.”

Anthony said he couldn’t pick out a favorite part of his experience.

“I enjoyed the whole trip,” Anthony said. “I think anybody who can get into this should – they will have a blast.”

Fred Eberle Technical Center Cosmetology Instructor Mary Hull said she had a student competing at National SkillsUSA.

“I had a student competing and she received 23rd place out of 36 competitors,” Hull said. “That is really very good. She received a certificate of excellence, which is something not everyone receives, and she received a score of 80 percent or higher in all of her categories. She was very close to first place because the point spread is so small.”

Hull said this is the first time Fred Eberle had a cosmetology competitor because the program is so new there.

“This is our third year competing in the state competition and our fourth year of having the program,” Hull said. “This is the first time we had someone attend the nationals. It was a great experience and I learned a lot. We will be more prepared next time.”

Hull said the cosmetology competitor was Caroline Fluke.

Each year, students compete to become local winners who represent their schools at the West Virginia State competition. The first-place winners compete at SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. The 2020 national competition will be held in Louisville, Kentucky June 22-26, 2020.