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Toyota’s Jim Lentz Becomes Champion of the Year

December 1st, 2011

We had an incredible evening in New York City in the Waldorf-Astoria’s Grand Ballroom on Friday, November 4, for the SkillsUSA 2011 Champion of the Year dinner and awards ceremony. More than 260 people attended – including many students and teachers in their red blazers – and 36 corporations and organizations were represented.

The ceremony began with a procession leading Jim Lentz and his wife, Barbara, to the head table preceded by the New York City Fire Department Emerald Society Pipes and Drums. Jim told me later it was probably the most dramatic entrance he’s ever made, and he might consider doing it again for a Toyota dealers’ meeting. National officers Victoria Holbert and Emad Madha did a beautiful job during the student section of the program introducing SkillsUSA to the guests, and there was a special video presentation from John McGlade, the 2010 Champion of the Year, quickly reprising some of his achievements and commending Jim Lentz.

Jim’s own remarks were nicely done with thoughtful stories about what makes people successful. He clearly put a lot of thought into what to say to the students in the audience. “My hope for all SkillsUSA students is that you find that higher purpose in your work and that all of you in this room tonight be proud of the fact that you’re part of a great organization that improves lives and is indeed creating a better world,” Lentz said. He also joked as he put on the SkillsUSA blazer, “I love playing golf, and I’ve always dreamed of winning the Master’s and getting that green jacket. This one’s much better and much more important.”

Jim received congratulatory letters from: Senator Tom Harkin, chairman, U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee; Senator Mike Enzi, ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee; and Representative Jim Langevin, co-chair of the House of Representatives CTE Caucus in addition to letters from governors and other organizations. Photos from the event and a news release are available online here. A six minute wrap-up video is also available at that link.

I owe a big thank you to the state association directors from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York and to their students and teachers for attending. It makes such a difference when people being introduced to SkillsUSA get to talk to the students. And, thanks, too, to all of the Youth Development Foundation members who attended and supported the evening. As I said, it was incredible.

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