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From the Back Row to Head of the Class

She went from being a student who needed a little push to the mentor doing the pushing. The gentle encouragement of advisors continues to inspire hundreds of thousands every year.


Scottie Burchett has been called a true success story for SkillsUSA, and with good reason. Her track record spans 30 years, including time spent both as a student member and chapter advisor.

It’s been quite a journey for the onetime 11th-grader who purposefully sat in the back of the class. “I thought, ‘I can sit back here. I won’t have to answer many questions. I won’t have to get involved in anything,’” Burchett describes those early days in Little Rock, Ark.

And that meant she would not be joining any clubs. Luckily, her advisor at Metropolitan Career and Technical Center, Linda Solderling, had other plans.

Solderling didn’t really give her an option not to join, Burchett remembers. “She just kind of pushed a little and said, ‘You need to be there.’” It wasn’t long before the student was writing a speech and running for — and later serving in — a SkillsUSA state office.

Even though her initial involvement may have been somewhat coerced, Burchett is grateful for the interest her advisor showed in her. She calls Solderling the “best mentor I could have ever had.”

Ten years later, as Burchett began her own teaching career, she found herself walking back into the same classroom. And this time, she’d become a world-class mentor in her own right.

Now at Pulaski Technical College in Bauxite, Ark., she counts among her proudest moments the time when an adult student came out of her shell to prepare for the state board exam in cosmetology. Following the example of her own advisor, Burchett gave the student a “little push” to join SkillsUSA and get involved.

“She had no confidence in herself,” Burchett says, but after competing in the state Job Skill Demonstration contest, the student came back with a new self-assurance. “When it came time to sit for her state board exam, she said, ‘I’m ready.’”

Burchett continues to give those little pushes as she actively incorporates community service into the curriculum. Her classes regularly provide cosmetology services to students who can’t be mainstreamed into a regular classroom.

“These students learn social skills while my students are learning to deal with the public and consult with clients,” Burchett explains. Through this program, she has seen growth all around. “Both sides win.”

Burchett is glad her teacher was there for her. She credits her with much of the success she enjoys now.

“It was nothing to do with me. It was her and SkillsUSA,” Burchett says. “They brought me from the back of the classroom to the front. I never want to be anywhere different.”

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SkillsUSA Champions | Summer 2006 | Volume 40, No. 4
Copyright ©2006 SkillsUSA. All rights reserved.

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