Frederick County students earn opportunity to showcase skills -- Gazette.Net



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Students at Frederick County Career and Technology Center made history this year when they brought back 30 gold medals from the Maryland State SkillsUSA technical and leadership competition.

Now, officials at the school are working to ensure their students don’t become victims of their own success.

Because of the unprecedented number of students who qualified for nationals this year, officials at the Career and Technology Center have to raise about $65,000 to send students to the national competition from June 23 through 28 in Kansas City, Mo.

Greg Solberg, principal of the Career and Technology Center, said the school might struggle to pay for the students who qualified to compete in the national competition — which helps showcase the best Frederick County skill and trades students to potential employers and college recruiters. Of the 30 winners, 25 to 28 will be available to travel to the competition.

“Right now we are about halfway there,” said Solberg, who said the school is searching for scholarships and donations while working on several fundraisers, which can help finance the trip.

Although the school already has received $6,000 from the Frederick County Students Automotive Trades Foundation and $8,000 from the Frederick County Students Construction Trades Foundation, as well as some additional funds, officials still are concerned time to raise money for the trip is running out fast.

“There is definitely a danger,” Solberg said.

The cost of the trip includes airfare, meals, hotel, transportation and registration fees for about 25 students and 14 instructors, Solberg said. The presence of instructors is important for students who often need adult help in following the contest’s strict guidelines, Solberg said.

“We are sending one staff member per contest,” he said. “You really don’t have to but it pretty much puts a student at a disadvantage. ... Contests at that level are often decided by less than a point.”

Students at the Frederick County Career and Technology Center, which provides occupational and technical training to all Frederick County public schools, have a long and successful record of participation in SkillsUSA. The contest offers competitive activities for students in occupational skills such as medical assisting, television and video production, aesthetics and welding.

“It has not been unusual for us to have 14 to 25 gold medals,” Solberg said.

Students benefit from the national contest in various ways, including national exposure of their work, opportunities to earn college scholarships, and time to meet with employers and college recruiters who are looking for new talent, Solberg said.

This year, 120 Frederick County students participated in the state level of the contest — competing in 47 contests running against about 1,000 students. From Frederick County, 56 students earned medals — 30 gold, 21 silver and five bronze.

“But this year we did extremely well.... It’s a combination of having the right kids and the right instructors,” Solberg said.

If students can make it to nationals, they will compete against more than 5,500 students.

For Career and Technology Center students who qualified for the contest, going to Kansas City would be the culmination of months of hard work and preparation. Many of them now are trying to help raise money, said Martha Lowry, lead SkillsUSA adviser.

“Students are now writing letters and requesting funds from friends and families,” Lowry said.

Mackenzie Capstick, a senior at Brunswick High School, earned a gold medal with her team in business presentation skills. She said spent four months preparing for the state competition alone. Mackenzie and her teammates even watched a video of their Ann Arundel County opponents, studying their weaknesses.

“They were the reigning champions forever,” said Mackenzie, who said she would be “devastated” if she could not go on to nationals.

“It’s a life-changing experience,” Capstick said.

Jessica Imler, a junior from Middletown High School, said she also was looking forward to the national contest, where she hopes to compete in the welding sculpture category. According to Imler and her instructors, if she does make it to the competition, she would be the first female in 30 years to compete nationally in welding.

“It’s a chance to show your skills.” Jessica said. “And it is a chance to see how good you really are.”

mraycheva@gazette.net