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2013-14 National Officer Team

July 31st, 2013

National OfficersThe new national officers have been trained and are ready for assignments. If you are interested in having a national officer visit your state, please contact Stephanie Bland at 703-737-0622. The newly-elected officers for 2013-14 are:

High School Division
President: Crystal Sandoval, Texas
Vice President: Laura Gouillon, Calif.
Secretary: Brittany Velez, Mass.
Treasurer: Daria Ferdine, N.J.
Parliamentarian: Bailie Henry, Okla.

Region I Vice President: Elizabeth Czerpak, Penn.
Region II Vice President: Jacob Halfin, Ga.
Region III Vice President: Cole Fallis, Ohio
Region IV Vice President: Chandler Forsythe, Texas
Region V Vice President: Erika Nelson, Wash.

College/Postsecondary Division
President: Leah Rife, Colo.
Vice President: Dustin Cagle, Ala.
Secretary: Juan-Carlos Medina, N.M.
Treasurer: Zach Pechacek, Neb.
Parliamentarian: Tony Hamblin, Tenn.


Spring Conference in Mississippi

March 15th, 2013

On February 26-27, I attended the Mississippi spring conference in Jackson. There were 200 more registrants this year with 1,500 attending overall. Competitions were held in several locations around town, but one of the most impressive venues was the Trademart where the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation (MCEF) administered all of the construction contests. The MCEF used the event as a centerpiece for a full-day seminar called “Pathways to Success” conducted for 130 administrators and guidance counselors from around the state. The audience heard a lot about the importance of CTE and construction careers, and I had the opportunity to tell them about SkillsUSA. State Senator Philip Moran also attended, and I received considerable interest from the regional sales manager of Makita, U.S.A.

Congratulations to Andy Sims, Mississippi state association director for a successful conference and thanks to Jean Massey, state CTE director, for her strong support of SkillsUSA.

On Thursday, February 28, I flew to St. Louis to meet with executives of Enterprise Holdings, parent company of Enterprise, Alamo and National car rental companies. This was another corporate connection made by board member Russ Hoffbauer. Russ, national officer Sergio Cavazos and I met with the head of the foundation, two vice presidents, three assistant vice presidents and a director. When the CEO met with us at one point, he said “I see you’ve got the Enterprise A team.” That was nice to hear.

Russ covered the reasons why business is involved with SkillsUSA, and Sergio did a beautiful job talking about the effect SkillsUSA has had on him, his school and his community. It was easy to see the executives were thoroughly impressed, and they said they want Enterprise to get involved as a partner at the local level and, perhaps, at national conference. They also expressed interest in our customer service competition and assessments.


February 28th, 2013
  • SkillsUSA had an exhibit at the AACC’s Workforce Development Institute from January 30-February 2 in San Diego. The annual conference is growing in size and a lot of people stopped by the exhibit. National officer Ben Morris was a featured luncheon speaker – the only student speaker in the entire conference – and he was followed by Assistant Secretary of Education Brenda Dann-Messier who had lots of great things to say about Ben and about SkillsUSA. Current SkillsUSA board member Kathy Jo Mannes and past board member Jim McKenney were both in attendance, of course, as well as past board member Greg Rintala.
  • Staff reports that UTI (Universal Technical Institute) will sponsor SkillsUSA University at national conference this year. UTI is talking about the possibility of having representatives from NASCAR attend conference as well.
  • Larry Rabalais, SkillsUSA Louisiana state association director, high school (and a former SkillsUSA board member) reports that 25 students and four teachers from Bonnabel High School participated in the Super Bowl sanctioned 18th Annual Rebuilding Together event in New Orleans. Larry said the event was well-run, the students and teachers worked hard, and it was a positive experience for all concerned. Lowe’s was the “presenting sponsor.”

2012-13 Officer Team

January 31st, 2013

The highly motivated and trained 2012-13 national officers are ready and willing to come serve you and your state delegation this spring. To have a national officer assist with your state conference, bring greetings, conduct a workshop, assist with your Championships, share their SkillsUSA story or other assignments you need help with contact Stephanie Bland at 703-737-0622. The current national officers are listed below. For more information about them, go to:


High School Division

President: Sergio Cavazos, Texas

Vice President: Mayokun Ojo, Maryland

Secretary: Jonathan Irizarry, Puerto Rico

Parliamentarian: Marical Ryan, Ohio

Region I Vice President: Kaila O’Farrell, Massachusetts

Region II Vice President: Brian Bradley, Georgia

Region III Vice President: Natasha Osborne, Ohio

Region IV Vice President: Alyssa Erwin, Texas

Region V Vice President: Hans Rodriquez, Arizona

College/Postsecondary Division 

President: Ben Morris, Washington

Vice President: Jonathan Garcia, Texas

Secretary: Mary Kamuiru, Tennessee

Treasurer: Craig Swanson, Georgia

Parliamentarian: Mark Roark, Tennessee

“Vision 2012″ ACTE National Conference Makes and Appearance in Atlanta

December 28th, 2012
ACTE Photo

SkillsUSA National Officers Craig Swanson, Brian Bradley and Kaila O’Farrell in SkillsUSA’s booth at ACTE along with SkillsUSA Executive Director Timothy W. Lawrence

From November 27 through December 1, I participated in the annual Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) conference in Atlanta. I was joined by staff members Heidi Walsh and Niki Clausen and national officers Brian Bradley (Ga.), Craig Swandon (Ga.) and Kaila O’Farrell (Mass.). The students did an outstanding job speaking to various stakeholder meetings and networking with attendees in our exhibit booth. SkillsUSA conducted six workshops and had good attendance at all of them. Workshops on chapter management, assessments and leadership were conducted by Niki, Heidi and me. A big thank you goes to Karen Ward, SkillsUSA Massachusetts state association director, for conducting workshops on Skill Connect Assessments and leadership development, and to Lana Ford for conducting an additional assessment workshop.

Board member Jeff Johnson, ACTE vice president, did a great job leading the trade and industrial division meetings and policy and planning sessions. It was also a great time to network with existing partners from education and industry. Greg Rintala, YDF member, attended and helped sponsor the conference, and I had good meetings with more than 12 partner companies and at least six more with prospective partners. It’s always important for SkillsUSA to have a strong presence at this annual event of CTE teachers, administrators and business partners.

Webinars Coming in 2013

December 14th, 2012

National OfficersFree national Web conferences are scheduled for 2013. It’s your chance to hear from and communicate with national staff. We’ll provide some training and information on professional development, some updating and motivating advice and tips on being a national leader.

Please join us for one or all of these events and we encourage state leaders and chapters to participate. Invite students, officer teams, key advisors, instructors, alumni and others.

SkillsUSA Week: Prepared with the Skills America Needs – February 5, 2013, 1 p.m (EST)
Use this webinar to help kick off SkillsUSA Week celebrations. Hear from your SkillsUSA leaders on the state of the organization. Listen to what it means to be “Prepared with the Skills America Needs” which is this year’s theme. You will also have the opportunity to ask questions.

Passcode: 5892

So You Want to Be a National Officer?
– March 19, 2013, 1 p.m (EST)
Do you have a student you think would make a good national leader? Has he/she wanted to run for a national SkillsUSA office, but wasn’t sure how? Then this webinar is for that student. Our experts will provide an overview of the national officer candidate procedures and national officer responsibilities. They will also get to hear first-hand experience from a current national officer


September 15th, 2012
  • A big thank you to our state association directors who attended the Professional Development and Training Conference in Rapid City, S.D. Here are just a few more highlights from the conference. Tiffany Sanderson, team leader, Perkins Career and Technical Education in South Dakota – equivalent to the state CTE director – was a featured speaker during the opening dinner. The states held regional meetings before the business meeting and all ran very well. Mark Williams, SkillsUSA’s chief IT consultant, did an outstanding job of demonstrating the conference management system. At least half of the directors attending participated, and Mark did a separate training for new state directors. The Mount Rushmore nighttime lighting ceremony was wonderfully patriotic. Jen Polz, state association director from Minnesota is the new executive committee chair-elect and all of the executive committee did a phenomenal job of running the conference.
  • On August 23, I flew to Chicago to meet with the CEO and executive staff of IAA (Insurance Auto Auctions) and the CEO and president of ADESA (a leading provider of vehicle remarketing services). Board member, Russ Hoffbauer, made the introduction by inviting the president and vice president of IAA to the conference last June. Needless to say, they were impressed by what they saw. During our meeting, Kaila O’Farrell, national high school vice president, talked about the value of SkillsUSA to students and then Russ Hoffbauer talked about why State Farm is involved in SkillsUSA. I’d say they were both persuasive because both organizations signed up to be SkillsUSA official sponsors effective this year. Executives from each organization met with us in Leesburg on September 11. Thanks go to Russ Hoffbauer for his support.
  • We have 311 people registered to attend the Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI) and it starts tomorrow. They’ll be representing 27 states and Puerto Rico and 31 state associations. I believe this is the largest WLTI in history. All of the national officers will be attending.
  • Preparations for the Champion of the Year dinner are reaching a feverish pace. An announcement news release went out on September 6, and Snap-on has really stepped up efforts to get coverage during a news conference scheduled at the National Press Club. Staff is following up on the invitations to the administration and Congress. We’ve had good sponsorship responses from the Youth Development Foundation and members of the board, and we’re looking forward to having 100 students and teachers from WLTI join us for the dinner.
  • We’re getting ready to send 13 students and 12 technical delegates from the 2013 SkillsUSA WorldTeam to Brazil for the WorldSkills Americas in mid-November 2012. We sent two contestants to the 2010 WorldSkills Americas competition and found it was a great way to prepare the contestants for international competition and – even more important – to help prepare the technical experts. Thank you to the state associations who are stepping up to support these contestants in their quest for excellence on the world level.

That’s it for now. Until next time, thank you for all you do for the great students and teachers we serve.


Student Officer Team Ready to Roll

August 20th, 2012

A new team of national student officers was here for training from July 19-27, and what a great group of students this is. National officer training is a perennial reminder of what SkillsUSA is really about: recognizing and nurturing the next generation of America’s leaders and champions.

Students participated in training sessions on public speaking, parliamentary procedure, goal setting and team building. All 15 officers participated and grew extensively in their speaking and leadership abilities. They bonded as a team and have set goals for their term in office.

The week of training is a special time. We get to see individuals from diverse backgrounds as they learn about each other and about themselves while becoming a team with a common purpose: to represent their fellow students, SkillsUSA and CTE. The following officers will represent the joint executive council (JEC) this year: Chair – Kaila O’Farrell, Mass.; Vice Chair – Jonathan Garcia, Texas; and, Secretary – Brian Bradley, Ga.

This year’s team looks as though it will be outstanding. To see the group photo of the officer team and their elected offices, please visit:

Tennessee was the Next Stop on the State Conference “Mega Tour”

May 15th, 2012

I attended a wonderful Tennessee state conference that filled the downtown Chattanooga Convention Center and several satellite sites, April 23-25. The high school and college/postsecondary associations run parallel conferences in the same facility, but hold separate opening banquets and awards ceremonies. On Monday evening, Carol Myers, SkillsUSA Tennessee high school association state director, and corporate member, Sue Tucker, managed a banquet for nearly 1,400 high school participants. The state officer team did a great job running the show. Carl Creasman, college/postsecondary state association director and his officer team hosted an opening banquet the following evening for nearly 500 participants. Board member James King, and national officer, Jeremy Ballentine, were both key parts of the ceremonies. James King certainly had everyone’s attention when he presented a brand new car to the outstanding student of the year.

I keynoted both banquets. Also speaking was Bill Prince, a native of Tennessee, a former national staff member and special advisor to President Reagan. Bill spoke about his participation at the founding of VICA in Nashville in 1965 and the founding of the postsecondary division in 1969. He was truly inspirational. It was also great to hear Danielle Mezera, the new assistant commissioner for CTE, speak at the high school division banquet. I had dinner with her and then toured the Championships floor – a mini national Championships in an exhibit hall – with her the following day. She promised to come to NLSC.

It was great to see Chip Harris at the conference. He is recovering well and promises to be at NLSC to chair the national Quiz Bowl contest. And, a giant thank you goes to Carol Myers and Carl Creasman for the excellent job at this year’s conference.

I also visited Columbus, Ohio for SkillsUSA Ohio’s 60th anniversary state conference. Mike Cowles said it was Ohio’s largest conference ever with 5,000 attending – including 2,200 competitors – and the event takes up the entire Ohio State Fair Grounds. I had lunch and great conversation with Steve Gratz, Ohio state CTE director, and met with Stan Heffner, state superintendent of education. Stan said the SkillsUSA Ohio conference is the “number one event on his calendar every year.”

Ohio had 50 state officer candidates and a huge delegate assembly. The election process was exciting and very intense. Ohio also had a run-off for several national officer candidates. Being elected as a state officer in Ohio is a very prestigious position and one that garners a lot of attention. The current state and national officers on the Ohio stage did a magnificent job of running the show. A big thank you goes out to State Association Director, Mike Cowles, and his management team for their leadership and for such a high quality event.

Working Toward a Nation of High School Graduates

April 15th, 2012

On March 18-21, Chance Litwin, SkillsUSA college/postsecondary national student president, Heidi Ambrose and I attended the 2012 Building a Grad Nation Summit in Washington, D.C.

The focus of the conference was the high school dropout challenge. The goal is to achieve 85 percent high school retention in the next decade and 90 percent thereafter. Over 1,100 people attended representing a wide array of businesses, organizations and community groups and there was a long list of illustrious presenters including Alma and Michael Powell (this is an initiative of General Colin Powell and family), George Lucas and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. State Farm was the presenting sponsor of the Summit along with America‘s Promise. Other sponsors included Target, AT&T and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Chance took to the microphone during one of the general sessions to say CTE and SkillsUSA had provided the connections and relationships that kept him in high school which made it possible for him to be a community college student today. He then asked if there should be more emphasis on CTE as a strategy for keeping students in school and to turn lives around. Chance received a big round of applause following his comments.

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