A competition of skill and fun
Students earn 16 medals at SkillsUSA regionals
No doubt there were several sighs of relief in the afternoon of March 14, when more than 1,000 students from BOCES centers throughout the region finally had an opportunity to relax. Their work for the day was done. The only thing left to do was wait for the awards ceremony to see how well they had done.
Those representing Southern Westchester BOCES’ Center for Career Services in Valhalla were pleased with their efforts. At the end of the day they came away with 16 medals at the SkillsUSA regional competition held at the Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie.
The annual event is an opportunity for students to measure their knowledge of a subject through a series of tests, both written and practical. An added benefit is the bonding which takes place amongst the students.
It was the first time attending SkillsUSA for Raiza Farfan, a senior at White Plains High School and secretary of the center’s SkillsUSA chapter. She competed in the category of Job Interview.
“It applies to any field,” Raiza, an Architecture and Interior Design student, said of why she opted to compete in this category.
The practical experience, she said, would serve her well when she begins her job search. She said she was also excited to learn more about her fellow students.
“We came together as a BOCES,” she said.
“I was nervous,” admitted Eddy Perez, a senior at New Rochelle High School who is in the Security, Law and Policing program.
His SkillsUSA experience consisted of a written exam as well as handcuffing and securing a suspect, fingerprinting and writing a police report.
He had no need to be nervous, as he placed second.
“I think it was a great experience,” Eddy said. “I’m prepped for states. I didn’t really know what to expect, but now I have a feel for it. I know what I have to do at states,” he said referring to the state-level competition.
Senior Dylan Agosto, a student at Westlake High School, has been working on hair from the time he was a child, learning from his hairdressing mom. While he was a member of SkillsUSA last year, this was his first time competing.
The Cosmetology II student competed in the category of Cosmetology-Senior.
“The part I loved, it wasn’t competitive,” said Dylan, who serves as secretary of SkillsUSA.
While students were vying to place in the top three, they were happy to be there doing something they love.
“The people I was competing against were nice,” he said.
Even more important than anything, according to Dylan, is the education he is receiving at Southern Westchester BOCES.
“The experience you will have entering the workforce is second to none,” he said. “BOCES is just a great way to get a jumpstart as an adult. I think there is nothing like it.”
Antonio Calderon, a senior at Woodlands High School, competed in First Aid/CPR. He was required to give CPR to adult and infant mannequins as part of his test. He was also required to stabilize an arm injury.
“I was confident in my abilities,” Antonio, an aspiring neurologist, said.
It served him well as he was a first-place winner, beating the second-place winner by eight points. Fellow Southern Westchester BOCES EMS students Samantha Mendez and Jeremy Marrero, came in second and third, respectively.
“I like to win, so I took it very seriously,” he said of his preparation before the competition.
“They are really looking at the quality of care for the patient,” he said of the judges.
Students are selected by their teachers to compete at SkillsUSA.
Jason Poniatowksi teaches Office Skills, Occupations and CISMAA (Computer Information Systems Medical Administrative Assistant) and sent two of his students to SkillsUSA.
Ahead of the competition he worked with the students to ensure their resumés were perfect and helped them review the skills they would be tested on. One of his students, Eris Neder, competed in the Job Interview category and placed first. His other student, Andrew Raciti, competed in Customer Service and was among the top ten.
“It’s nice to get them ready for a competition that has real life applications,” Mr. Poniatowski said.
Construction and Plumbing teacher Richard Thomas selected one of his students to compete in the Carpenter’s Assistant category. Student Joseph Engongoro placed third.
“I always send at least one student,” Mr. Thomas said, adding he works with them ahead of time so they know what to expect at the competition.
Mr. Thomas has also witnessed the transformation students who compete undergo.
“On the ride home it’s a party,” he said, contrasting the quiet ride to the event. “They’ve made new friends, not only from this school but from others as well. It’s just a great, great learning experience. Their social skills just explode.”
“The experience is just incredible,” Mr. Thomas continued. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
A committee consisting of faculty and staff assist the student-led SkillsUSA membership team. They provide assistance to students helping them to register as a SkillsUSA member, a requirement in order to compete. They also advise on how to put together the required resumé. In addition, they instruct students on proper professional behavior and the dress code requirements at the competition, as well as the traditional formalities such as reciting the SkillsUSA pledge.
“It’s a big commitment,” committee member and School Counselor Lori Aufiero said referring to the benefits of participating.
Security, Law and Policing teacher and committee member Raymond Sulla said, includes letting future employers know students have the experience necessary for the job they are applying for.
The regional SkillsUSA competition is an opportunity for students to get a sense of what to expect should they opt to compete at the state level in April, which this year will take place April 24, 25 and 26 in Syracuse.
“The regionals are great but you really have to pick up your game for states,” Mr. Sulla said. “Many students say ‘now I know what I have to do,’” after the regional event.
The states are also a way to meet students from throughout New York, those with whom they will eventually be competing when it comes time to look for a job.
Both competitions help to introduce students to concepts they will need to know when they get out into the workforce, School Social Worker Eileen Yip said.
Fellow committee member Yolanda Lopez, who teaches Cosmetology I, said she selects students to attend based on the quality of their work. Often at the competition students are required to create an elegant up do’ and take a written exam.
Practice for the competition, in which all students participate whether they compete or not, Ms. Lopez said, helps students learn time management as well as working with a client.
She has seen what a difference competing can make in a student’s attitude.
“It helps with their image,” she said. “Now they know I can do this.”
This year the Center for Career Services had a record number of students enter the regional competition with 44 students competing, up from 22 last year. Some of the events included individual tests, while others had students working in twos or threes.
“Each year we are growing, which is great,” Ms. Aufiero said.
Students and the SkillsUSA committee at the Center take on the responsibility of encouraging students to compete.
“Half of the students don’t want to go, but after they compete you see how much it brings up their self-esteem,” Ms. Aufiero said.
“If they go as a junior, they are very shy and quiet. By the end of the competition they are going crazy and saying ‘I can’t wait to go next year,’” Mr. Sulla said. “They end up finding out Skills is not only a competition but you have a social life with it.”
“The smiles and sense of pride in BOCES makes it all worth it,” Ms. Yip said.
List of winners
Juliette Suarez, 1st
Saniyah Brinney, 2nd
Arai Nunez, 2nd
Joseph Engongoro, 3rd
Anijah Kee, 3rd
Team: Alicia Gomez, Silvia Magallon, Kayla Chavez, 2nd
Maximillian Lenn, 1st
Eddy Perez 2nd
Antonio Calderone, 1st
Samantha Mendez, 2nd
Jeremy Marrero, 3rd
Eris Neder, 1st
Job Skill Demo, Junior
Kaitlyn Elliot, 2nd
Alejandro Lopez, 3rd
Job Skill Demo, Senior
John Crea, 2nd
Leonardo Torres, 1st