BILLERICA — Students from Shawsheen Valley Vocational Technical High School recently competed in the SkillsUSA District competition, earning 71 medals from the event: 28 gold, 26 silver and 17 bronze.
Shawsheen’s SkillsUSA chapter was one of seven schools taking part in the District IV regional competition held on March 17. The competition included 1,023 students from Shawsheen, Greater Lowell Tech, Greater Lawrence Tech, Nashoba Tech and Essex Tech; 155 of those students were from Shawsheen.
SkillsUSA Districts is the qualifying event for students to compete at the state competition. The district competition consists of three exams in a technical area: a written SkillsUSA Employment Skills test, a written trade knowledge test and a written safety test.
Shawsheen had students compete in 55 of the 89 technical occupational categories offered. Examples of technical areas include Medical Math, Automotive Refinishing, Computer Programming, CNC Turning, Power Equipment Tech, Masonry, Carpentry and Plumbing.
Brooke Haley, a Tewksbury resident in Cosmetology, competed in esthetics and earned a gold medal. This achievement earned her a seat at the states in April.
“I’m excited but very nervous for states,” Brooke said. “The Cosmetology program covers hair, skin and nails, but most of our time is spent on hair. This means I have to make time to practice esthetics and makeup artist on my own.”
Haley is up for the challenge and plans to work with her teachers to ensure her home studies are efficient and productive. “I’m sure I will be ready to compete at states on competition day, but until then, there will never be enough time in the day to study and practice,” she said.
Health Assisting student Michaela Vittum, of Burlington, competed in the Nurse Assisting competition and earned a silver medal.
“I’m happy with the silver medal because it means I get to move onto the state competition,” Vittum said. “It will be an advantage for me to see what states is like as a junior, so that if I don’t place this year, I can build on my experience next year.”
Bronze medalist Brian Vitale, a Drafting student from Bedford, competed in Technical Drafting and said, “Districts is fun, but it is challenging to study for. You have to prioritize all your other work so that you have time to study your skills for the competition.”
“It takes a lot of preparation, commitment and practical training for students to be eligible to compete at Districts,” said Assistant SkillsUSA Advisor Karen Meister. “With such a high number of students placing at the competition, it is certainly something we are proud of.”
SkillsUSA is a national organization serving high school and college students enrolled in technical, skilled, and service training programs. The organization prepares quality education experiences for students in leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development. SkillsUSA also includes competitions in which students demonstrate occupational and technical skills, which is an opportunity most vocational schools take part in.
“I am proud of our students for all their effort and commitment to the chapter,” said SkillsUSA Advisor Heidi Lloyd, “Shawsheen has a reputation of placing well at these competitions, so students feel the pressure to maintain that status. Regardless of the overall number, each medal is an accolade we hold in high regard.”
Shawsheen students who placed at Districts will continue to refine their skills and prepare for the SkillsUSA State Competition. The state competition is held in Marlboro, and generally hosts 1,500 students from over 65 public schools in the commonwealth.
Earlier in the year, SkillsUSA sponsored a contest for a T-shirt design and pin design for the SkillsUSA national competition. Two Shawsheen students placed in the contest. Ava Rega, a sophomore in Design & Visual Communications from Wilmington, won the bronze medal in the national T-shirt contest, and Leslie Cota, a junior from Billerica in the Graphic Communications program, earned the silver medal in the national pin contest. Ava and Leslie were the first two medalists for Shawsheen for the 2021-2022 school year, and were honored for their initiative and success.