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Pressure Builds for SkillsUSA Nationals

In a few weeks, Dominic Krupp will be part of a two-person team tasked with coming up with an idea for a short video, storyboarding it out, then shooting, editing and uploading it — all in 36 hours.

Godwin Heights junior Ashley Soto will face a similar time restriction, only in her case it will be to conceive and design a building where people live, work, play or otherwise come together.

Dominic and Ashley are two of 12 students from Kent Career Tech Center who will be in Louisville, Kentucky in June pitting their skills against other students from across the country at the National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC) of SkillsUSA.

These Kent Career Tech Center students from across West Michigan are headed to SkillsUSA nationals:

Student Officers
Jackson Rohn – West Catholic High School
Hayley Lee – Tech Center, outgoing State President 2015-16

Digital Cinema Production
Gold Medal Team
Dominic Krupp – homeschooled
Reid Riley – Rockford High School

Advertising Art
Gold Medal
Faith Reitema – homeschooled

Gold Medal
Jayden Bodziak – Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills High School

Architectural Design
Gold Medal
Ashley Soto – Godwin Heights High School

Gold Medal
Ahron Keizer – homeschooled

Telecommunication Cabling Demonstration
Ryn Hemphill – Thornapple Kellogg High School

Urban Search and Rescue
Alexia DeLange – East Grand Rapids High
Josh Mattfolk – homeschooled

Computer Programming
Colin VerWys – Kent Innovation High/Lowell High School

SkillsUSA provides educational programs, events and competitions that support career and technical education (CTE) in more than 18,000 classrooms nationwide. Besides technical skills, there’s a strong focus on developing leadership skills. Throughout the year students receive training in interviewing, professional dress, writing a resume, public-speaking and demonstrating their talent.

“SkillsUSA is good for people who are curious about a specific career because it gives you real-life experiences,” said Dominic, a homeschooler who plans to open his own video and photography business as soon as he graduates. “For me, it has really helped me figure out what I want to do.”

At the state conference in April in Grand Rapids, nearly 60 high school students competed in 20 contests. Tech Center competitors brought home six gold, three silver and six bronze medals. The gold medal winners and six other competitors will go to nationals, where, in 2015, there were more than 6,000 contestants in 100 separate events.

At nationals, students and advisers participate in a whirlwind week of events.  All meetings, contests, opening ceremonies, awards and closing ceremonies, and industry shows take place at the vast Kentucky Exposition Center, in a space equivalent to 16 football fields.

Tech Center students have participated in SkillsUSA for more than a decade under the leadership of instructors Deb Riolo and Amy Badovinac. This year they turned over the reins to Laurie Fernandez, Larry Ridley and Alane Rozelle.

For Ashley, making it to nationals in SkillsUSA is validation of her intended career path. She always loved to draw, she said, but her math skills… well, not so much. She thought that was a deal-breaker until sixth-grade math teacher Andrew Hughes, at Crestwood Middle in Kentwood, showed her that “When you get frustrated, it just means you’ve got to work a little harder.”

Now she’s not only designing buildings that look good, she also knows that “it doesn’t matter how pretty a building is if you can’t use it.” She has already had a paying gig for a basement design for a local family.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” Ashley said of reaching the national level of SkillsUSA. “Even just participating is worth putting on your resumé.


SkillsUSA Championship Information

Kent Career Tech Center

Videos by Dominic Krupp and Reid Riley

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio


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