Students throughout Southern Westchester BOCES compete in SkillsUSA Regionals

More than a dozen students show off their knowledge and prove they have what it takes

Students from the Southern Westchester BOCES (SWBOCES) campus in Valhalla returned from the SkillsUSA Regional Conference last month with medals to prove that they have what it takes to be successful in their chosen careers paths. Nearly two-dozen students headed to Orange-Ulster BOCES to compete in Zone IV Regional Conference. Zone IV of the New York State Organization encompasses the counties of Westchester, Orange, Ulster, Rockland, Dutchess, and Putnam. Every February the schools of Zone IV hold a conference, a scaled down event serving as a dress rehearsal for the State Conference in April. The students utilize regionals as a way to check their skills, meet other students from the area, and to prepare themselves for the state competitions.

"I'm amazed at how our students, when given the opportunity, really step up into their roles as competitors and leaders. I'm especially impressed with our student leadership: they're focused, prepared, proactive, and they take their responsibilities seriously. We couldn't run SkillsUSA without them,” said Lead Advisor Howard Hamilton.

Some students attended as delegates, representing the SWBOCES chapter. The Southern Westchester BOCES Chapter is made up of Advisors: Howard Hamilton, Lead Advisor, Automotive; Pierre Fils, Automotive; Vanessa Newby, Cosmetology; Melissa Sayegh, Cosmetology; Brandon Pesco, Auto Collision; and Anchelle Allen, EMS. Student Leadership: A.M.: President Samantha Blaker, Cosmetology; Vice President Kevin Montufar, Security & Law Enforcement; and P.M.: President Elizabeth Torres, Animal Science; and Vice President Brooke Murphy, Auto Collision.

“All of our students did very well at regionals, and we are proud to see their hard work pay off. Our entire class is excited to cheer them on as they move on to the State Championships,” said Jason Poniatowski, Office Skills & Occupations & CISMAA teacher at Southern Westchester BOCES.


SWBOCES students won medals in almost every event in which they participated. The following is a list of winners in various categories:

Advertising Design: Chayce Hewitt, a senior at Edgemont Jr./Sr. High School, took 1st place

Animal Career: Amy Baez, a senior at New Rochelle High School, took 2nd place

Cake Decorating:  Jae Ah Lee, a senior at Edgemont High School, took 2nd place

Cosmetology Quiz Bowl: Samantha Gonzalez-Lopez, a senior at New Rochelle, Robyn Perez, a senior at Greenburgh High School, Robert Pecchia, a junior at Rye Neck High School, and Juliet Cosgrove, a junior at Eastchester High School, took 2nd place

Criminal Justice: Kevin Montufar, a senior at New Rochelle High School, took 1st place

Culinary: Ivan Lee, a senior at Pelham High School, took 1st place

Digital Cinema: Sam Burgos, a senior at Valhalla High School and Ryan Corrigan, a senior at Eastchester High School, both took  1st place

First Aid/CPR: Zainab Maqsood, a senior at New Rochelle High School, took 1st place while Kendra Rollins, a senior at New Rochelle High School, took 3rd place

Job Skills Demo Year 1: Vanessa Giangregorio, and Gabriella Capone, took 2nd place

Related Technical Math: Abraham Suarez, took 1st place

These winners have the opportunity to compete in the state competition in April. 

“This was my second competition, and it was pretty exciting. I enjoyed competing against my peers. I worked on a 10” two-layer cake that I had to cut, ice/frost, and decorate on site. I’m excited about going to the state competition. It’s going to be a long journey, but hopefully I win 1st place and get to go to nationals,” said Jae Ah.

While there, the students had the chance to explore the Orange-Ulster BOCES.

The whole experience was nice. They gave us a tour of the animal science classes. I noticed that the animal husbandry and enclosures were different,” said Amy. “It was a good experience overall, I really enjoyed going.

Originally founded in 1965 as Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, or “VICA”, the organization was renamed SkillsUSA in 2004. SkillsUSA is the largest student organization of its kind in the world. It has more than 440,000 student and professional members.