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State Leadership and Skills Conferences Inspiring Students and Setting New Records

This is the most exciting time of year for me to witness firsthand our mission manifest in the work of our state associations. Every state association director across the nation is charged with organizing and managing their state leadership conference and skills competitions and I am thrilled with the incredible things I am witnessing as I travel to our state events. A big thank you goes out to all our state directors for their dedication to our members and the passion they exhibit for SkillsUSA. The work they are doing is making such a positive impact on our student members, their schools and their communities!

From April 3-7, I attended an outstanding SkillsUSA California State Leadership and Skills Conference in San Diego. I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the state conference banquet, speak on “Good Morning San Diego” on KUSI TV with the state officer team and speak at both the opening and awards ceremonies. State association director, Clay Mitchell, and his board of directors are setting new records and involving more students than ever before. My time in California started with participation in the state board of directors meeting. The California board includes a great group of educators and industry, and they are doing outstanding work for the state association. Several national partner companies are involved on this board including State Farm Insurance, Sandvik Corporation, Snap-on, The Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers and Toyota. At the meeting, the board reviewed and revised their strategic plan and put assignments in place for the state conference.

The state conference was the largest ever in California and was well orchestrated with hundreds of business representatives serving as technical committee members and judges. The conference has doubled in size since my last visit four years ago. The opening and awards ceremonies were excellent, and the student officers performed exceptionally well.

A highlight of the conference was spending time with VIPs, including the Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lupita Cortez Alcala. I was honored to have dinner with her and discuss the value of SkillsUSA in the California system. Board members, students and I escorted her on a tour of the Championships, and she was very impressed. Quoting the deputy superintendent, “It was a true honor for me to be part of the 46th SkillsUSA Leadership and Skills Conference and to witness an outstanding organization, student and staff leadership and the passion and dedication of so many volunteers and business partners. I was especially impressed with the student knowledge, confidence, talent and dedication! I can say it was truly inspirational for me and I’ve returned so excited and passionate about SkillsUSA.” She has already committed to getting the state superintendent to attend next year, and she is working on attending our national conference this summer. And, the biggest news from the conference is—as a result of the deputy superintendent’s participation in the conference—state-level funding for all student organizations in California has been restored!

California membership is up by nearly 3,000 this year. There are great things happening with our state leadership and in our schools in California. Big congratulations to our state director and the board!

One day home and I was off to Wisconsin Dells for the 40th Anniversary SkillsUSA Wisconsin State Leadership and Skills Conference. Board member and high school state association director, Brent Kindred, was my guide and really made my participation in the conference exciting and worthwhile. Assistant Director, Lauri Domer, and College/Postsecondary Director, Dale Drees, both did an exceptional job at another record-breaking state conference.

I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony on April 10. The ceremony was held in a beautiful performing arts theater, and it was well produced. A diverse group of high school and college/postsecondary state officers led an outstanding opening ceremony. I was also pleased to see several alumni and former national officers involved in the production. To help celebrate the 40th anniversary, three former state association directors were invited back and honored at the conference: Ken Starkman, Kevin Miller and Bryan Albrecht. It was great to see these individuals, all of whom have contributed greatly to the history and growth of SkillsUSA, as well as other pioneers of our program in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has also experienced membership growth this year, and their high school membership is the highest since the 1990 school year. In addition, I was pleased to see that this conference was the largest in the state association’s history.

The SkillsUSA Wisconsin Championships was held at the Dell Center Exhibit Hall, the Chula Vista Resort and on a few satellite college campuses in Madison. It was spectacular with over 1,200 competitors and it looked much like a “mini NLSC.” There was incredible business and industry support, well organized competition areas and a ton of enthusiasm from student participants, teachers, administrators and business partners. There were excellent advisor recognition sessions and an appreciation reception and luncheon and there was also a nice reception for the SkillsUSA Alumni.

SkillsUSA Wisconsin has the goal of aligning its conference and strategic direction with the national organization. It’s really working well for them. Congratulations to SkillsUSA Wisconsin and a big thank you to Brent Kindred, Dale Drees and Lauri Domer for their outstanding leadership and being such great hosts.

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