As with any organization, SkillsUSA measures its success in many ways. But there’s no more powerful gauge for measuring the success of the SkillsUSA mission than to examine the accomplishments of our members, accomplishments that illustrate the positive difference that SkillsUSA involvement can have on a life.
Below you’ll find short synopses of many of these “success stories,” each one taken from the pages of SkillsUSA Champions magazine from 2002 to the present. There are students here from varied backgrounds with varied interests, but one thing binds them together: the positive, often life-changing effect that SkillsUSA has had – and continues to have – on their lives. Click on the “more” link in each piece to be taken to the full article.
It’s always the quiet ones who surprise you. Nobody who knew Ahmad Shawwal in elementary or middle school would have imagined the shy immigrant would represent his school…Read More
Executive Director Tim Lawrence had just delivered a presentation on SkillsUSA to industry, education and government leaders at a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education conference in Arlington…Read More
Most of us would be moved by a documentary like “Invisible Children,” about tens of thousands of children who hide in the night to escape being killed or…Read More
There are so many people out there who are dream stealers,” says Alex Abrahantes. “I’m living proof that — and this is a quote I came up with…Read More
To say Alex Adkisson didn’t like school as a child would be an understatement. His dislike was so intense that if he was in the car with his…Read More
For the Newman family of Topeka, Kan., the Washburn Institute of Technology is like a second home.
Debra Garcia-Newman followed her husband and children through its doors. The…Read More
Angela Camargo loves doing gel electrophoresis. Huh?
“You use a gel, and it has a matrix,” the high-school student begins, “and you put your DNA into a well. The…Read More
Working within the legal system has been a lifelong goal for Angibel Tome-Martinez. A great student, she was about to start college at age 17 with a full…Read More
Her father was a machinist; her mother, a graphic designer. Annette Parker embodies the best of both professions. She’s forged a career ranging from industrial drafting to designing…Read More
Anthony Cofield is a myth-breaker. Has been since the ninth grade.
That’s when he abandoned the advanced honors path he was traveling in favor of Calhoun County Technical Center…Read More
Many families come to the United States for its educational opportunities. For Arlette Dervil, relocating from Haiti was an abrupt change with continuing aftershocks.
After the January 2010…Read More
Have you ever heard the quote, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog”? I’m going to…Read More
For some, profession and passion are unacquainted strangers. For many career and technical education students, however, the two are tight-knit friends. That’s certainly the case with Austin Jenks…Read More
When asked about her 4.0 high-school GPA, Beatriz “Bay” Dedicatoria nonchalantly says she “really tries.” Considering that this former state SkillsUSA officer is also a repeat state medalist…Read More
“All-around.” If there’s one phrase to describe University of Michigan freshman Brandon Graham, that’s it.
Let’s start with the football field. Before graduating from Detroit’s Crockett High School, Graham…Read More
Brian Copes isn’t just working to change his own students’ lives. With his class, he’s helping others who live a thousand miles away.
Copes is committed to helping…Read More
Brian Garcia doesn’t mind being labeled an Army brat. He doesn’t mind that he had to switch schools every year until recently, and he’s adapted to his dad…Read More
Brianna Broderick was looking for productive ways to channel her grief when she first learned of SkillsUSA. She thought it seemed like a lot of work and that…Read More
Brittany Velez has already faced more than her fair share of uphill battles, so it’s good that she takes them in stride.
Whether it’s an Advanced Placement course workload…Read More
At the beginning of her senior year of high school, Brooke Bibeault found herself at a crossroads.
She was already pretty busy. A student at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational-Technical…Read More
Byekwaso Lwasa Francis was born to farming peasants in the Ugandan village of Vvumba. The seventh of 10 children, his early childhood was spent in a countryside dotted not…Read More
Imagine this: A few years from now, you’re sitting comfortably on an airline flight, seat belt buckled and tray table in the upright position. A reassuring voice wafts…Read More
Next time someone says having a good career map isn’t important as early as high school, consider Carolyn Kimbrel. "I’m a walking billboard for career and technical education…Read More
Amanda Moreno was in a panic. “You’d think I would’ve been more prepared for a contest called, you know, Prepared Speech,” she laughs now about her first SkillsUSA…Read More
Cassandra Puletapuai feels a certain kinship with wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson, otherwise known as The Rock. And with rocks in general.
As Puletapuai (pronounced POOH-lay-TAH-pooh-WHY) says of her Samoan…Read More
Champions inspire us, amaze us and sometimes leave us speechless.
In his quest to join TeamUSA at the WorldSkills Competition in the fall of 2007, Chance Pollo had to travel…Read More
In just a few short years, Chandler Vincent went from being ready to drop out of high school to being named one of the best welders in the…Read More
Most of my childhood days were spent on the baseball diamond or swimming at a pool. One day, I was at the local water park, swimming in the…Read More
Chris Gabler had it all. Having just turned 22, the aspiring firefighter was getting a degree at Los Angeles Valley College. He’d already volunteered for a year-and-a-half at…Read More
Christina Rusin knew she’d made it to the big leagues when she noticed then-national security advisor Condoleeza Rice walking up the stairs. But this wasn’t the time to…Read More
What do competing in Prepared Speech, becoming an engineer, being the world’s best javelin thrower and playing the trombone have in common?
A 5-foot-2, eyes-of-blue junior from Bluestem High…Read More
Collin Kelly is passionate about the world around him. A graduate of the environmental science and technology program at Minuteman High School in Lexington, Mass., Kelly says he…Read More
Corey White started playing the guitar when he was just 8 years old. “As soon as I learned my first three chords, I said, ‘OK, I’m ready to…Read More
The cosmetology gene runs strong in Crystal Pruskowski's family, but the competition gene seems to skip a generation.
Pruskowski's mom is also a cosmetologist and a former SkillsUSA member…Read More
Cynthia Thielen of Surry, Maine, is on her college dean’s list and an enthusiastic volunteer for SkillsUSA at the state and national levels. She shares how her membership…Read More
Dakota Rostron grew up watching her grandfather work on cars.
“I was always around the smell and the sounds of them,” she says. As a freshman at Princeton (Ind…Read More
It’s not unusual for a teenager to pick up an electric guitar and fantasize about becoming a rock star. What is unusual is when he grabs a guitar…Read More
Daniela Duron Garcia knows how challenges can become opportunities. “It was one month into school ... and I’m already here shaking hands with the president,” the Texas native…Read More
Danny Coleman likes to say he’s half the man he used to be. This would be a bad thing in most cases, but it probably saved his life…Read More
“I know my voice cracked a number of times, which is very uncommon for me,” David Allday remembers. Speaking in front of 3,000 people at SkillsUSA California’s 50th state…Read More
One of the greatest traits of leaders is not how much they talk, but how much they listen. “The hardest thing for me to do today is to…Read More
Ever thought that life is more interesting in school than on any of the popular “reality TV” shows? Student Derek Heim is a survivor of both real worlds.
“One day, I just cracked and lost it. I did something I’m not proud of,” Diego Carvallo remembers, the pain still in his voice three years later. “I…Read More
Doug Ward describes his early years in Benton Harbor, Mich., as “well below poverty.” An only child, Ward lost his mother when he was 18 months old, spending…Read More
Dwight Lewis has a career 50 years in the making. While he’s worked in the restaurant industry off and on for most of his life, Lewis went back…Read More
Two weeks before Edvan Slick’s state championships, his father died. “The only thing that came to my mind was, ‘Why should I stop? I’m still young, and I’ve…Read More
From a very young age, Edwin Maxcy remembers helping his dad with the family’s diesel 2002 Ford Excursion. The experience became a drive to learn more, leading him…Read More
Erica and Robert Rutter met, got married and had a son. Their American dream quickly centered on making a better life for Emmett, now 3.
When they met, Robert…Read More
Everett Crosby wanted to make sure he had a job after graduating. But under the wing of an instructor who understood his limited experience, he learned new skills…Read More
For more than half his 86 years, Faustino Peña has been traveling from his Texas home to SkillsUSA’s National Leadership and Skills Conference.
It started in 1971…Read More
Picture a champion. You don’t see drug addiction, physical abuse or juvenile detention. But for Gary Stange, it’s part of what he’s both seen and overcome on the…Read More
Before starting a career arc in welding, Harris Lanier took culinary arts at her high school. She hated it. The only other course open was in core and…Read More
He came to America from Hong Kong when he was only 9, facing an entirely new culture of which he knew nearly nothing. He’s battled through barriers of…Read More
“Business as usual,” says Debra Groover, her voice unmistakably tinged with pride. Her son, 19-year-old Rickey, has just returned from his third SkillsUSA Georgia competition. Three trips, three…Read More
“Bigger is better.” If you don’t believe that, just talk to Jack Frederick, who oversees large construction equipment as a service manager for a Caterpillar dealer. “I love…Read More
Asked how he sees the world, Jacob Hudson, who is legally blind, says it’s hard to describe. He’s unable to make a comparison, since he’s only seen things…Read More
Becoming the youngest person to ever place in the top 10 of a national SkillsUSA competition. Delivering an impassioned speech in front of hundreds of peers. Walking onto…Read More
Australian Jennifer Weis earned a bachelor’s degree in science and worked as a research assistant and teacher before taking a sharp career turn to automotive service.
Originally from Sydney…Read More
At 23, Jessica Crowley had held a lot of good starting jobs for a young adult, but not anything in which she felt she could build a career…Read More
Mechanical engineering, surveying, community service, family ties to Central America — these are just a few facets of Jessica Escobar. Together, they help define a young woman who…Read More
Some people think leaders are born. Jimmy Patronis would say leaders are made.
Once a culinary arts student at Bay High School in Panama City, Fla., Patronis…Read More
John Hills was a junior at Port Huron (Mich.) Northern High School when he got a little push from his advisor to try something new.
“We had a very…Read More
When SkillsUSA tried out a competition in Welding Art Sculpture last year, most entries had whimsical themes: cowboy boots, a dragonfly, a fisherman or an array of stars…Read More
Five years ago, in the unsettling days following 9/11, Jon Wilson stood on the grounds of the Pentagon, staring at the charred rubble. The young Army man had…Read More
Jonathan Irizarry made SkillsUSA history on June 27 when he became the first student from Puerto Rico to be elected as a national officer. Being called on stage…Read More
There’s a tenaciously held myth about career and technical education that CTE students don’t have the same shot at success as those following the traditional academic track. Jonathan…Read More
Baseball gives you two strikes; one more and you’re out. Facing his own possible third strike, Andrew Joseph (A.J.) Taillacq hit a home run.
“I made a promise to…Read More
It’s not every day — or year, actually — that someone meets the requirements for SkillsUSA’s highest individual honor. Joshua Brunk is the latest to be awarded the…Read More
Josie Monarch had two requirements for the college she would eventually attend. One of them was that she had to be part of its football program.
The Hardinsburg, Ky…Read More
Advisor of the Year Joyce Price admits she has faced challenges running a SkillsUSA chapter. “But I always say it’s not about me. It’s about the kids. It’s…Read More
“They told me that the day it happened was May Day, like our Labor Day here,” Julia Abramova remembers. “They say we were at a parade and then…Read More
Julian Plowden was in trouble. He was in high school, about to end the first semester of his freshman year, and his teacher was almost ready to give…Read More
Because she hated high school and wanted to get out two hours early, Julie Atkins signed up for an Industrial Cooperative Training (ICT) class.
“I was a kid…Read More
Julie Ivan started a SkillsUSA chapter 14 years ago with two interested students. Since then, thousands have come through the Michigan instructor’s program, with many lives changed. As…Read More
A balanced-budget proposal that could have slashed state funding for Connecticut’s technical schools didn’t sit well with the students in Meriden. They decided to give legislators their thoughts…Read More
Karen Ballew had it made. After high school, she attended Palm Beach (Fla.) Community College on a softball scholarship, where her team won the state championship twice. After college…Read More
Confidence. Compassion. Dedication. It takes all these things to become a medical doctor, but add the right amount of encouragement and opportunity, and Josefina Plata and Karen Carbajal…Read More
At age 7, Karmen Ayres watched helplessly as her active life ground to a halt.
“I was so ill that I lost all this weight and basically became nothing…Read More
Kate Campbell likes a good challenge.
While a student at Presque Isle (Maine) High School, she played ice hockey on the boys’ team. Soccer, softball and swimming dominated other…Read More
"If you were to spend a day with Katherine Jones and were not the better for it, you would be one of life’s rare exceptions.”
Talk about setting high…Read More
Despite a rough start in life with lingering obstacles, has kept on track after discovering a love for all things automotive.
He suffers from tics and has…Read More
Kendra Lisec doesn’t let fear stop her from trying new things.
Take performing. In June, she sang in front of more than 15,000 students, teachers and business partners at…Read More
Kevin Matthies is the only American to date to earn a Precision Machining-Milling medal at the WorldSkills Competition. Now a senior vice president for Spirit AeroSystems, he traces…Read More
Kevin Sbraga could barely speak. “Are you sure?” he managed. Confirmation came — Sbraga’s life had officially changed. He’d won the seventh season of popular reality-TV show “Top…Read More
Kevin Waita is fascinated with structure — whether it’s buildings and highways or words and music.
Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, Waita attends Tulsa (Okla.) Technology Center’s Lemley Campus and…Read More
A childhood passion for cars led Kieron Kohlmann to become a technical training developer for Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles. Today’s complex vehicles require a highly educated person to diagnose and repair…Read More
Kim Cioni will not let her students give up. Or her sister, for that matter. She’s in it for the long haul, making sure they stay in the…Read More
Kristina Rice, food stylist and chef, not only knows how to make a chicken taste good, she makes it look so good that television viewers open their wallets.
A school can change students, but it’s even more amazing when students change a school. When a trio at Providence (R.I.) Career and Technical Academy put their heads…Read More
By the time she started her senior year, LaManda Slover was already a newly-wed. She’d left her family in Cleveland, Okla. (“I’d say Hallett, but that isn’t even…Read More
Salmon or hydropower? Both are critical to the Washington state economy, but gains for one industry often mean losses to the other. The steps of three high-school students…Read More
One thing Laura Gouillon could never be accused of is misrepresenting herself. When she ran for SkillsUSA national office in 2013, her campaign posters championed “Laura the Explorer…Read More
Inspiration can come from the strangest places. But dogs … in space? That’s where young entrepreneur Leah Rife found the idea for a logo to sell her hand-painted…Read More
Leslie Holmes came to SkillsUSA’s 2015 national conference as a student competitor. The next year, she was back — but as an advisor.
Holmes calls it “coming…Read More
Addiction issues plagued Levi Williams ever since he was a teenager. Now he’s clean, and SkillsUSA’s made a difference.
“In high school, I started drinking and going…Read More
Since she was 5, Madelyn Vallejo has known what she wanted to do with her life. “Some people want to be scientists or doctors. I want to be…Read More
As a little girl, Danielle Silver had a favorite game. It was to wear her mom’s old high-school blazer with the colorful patch on the pocket. Danielle loved…Read More
The written word starts with images and characters being shared, understood and repeated. These evolve into alphabets and words. Words become written language. With written language comes literacy…Read More
When she was born, Maria Olney weighed 5 pounds, 5 ounces. One year later, the Russian orphan was still only 11 pounds.
“You could see in pictures…Read More
“We made cool stuff,” says Marlana Wunderlich, who grew up working on go-karts and bikes. “I always wanted to work with my hands.” However, it wasn’t until her…Read More
In an instant, we are connected … by email, cell phone, radio and camera.
In an instant, we are communicating … through electronic systems that would have boggled the…Read More
Your assignment: Create a delicious dessert that would even impress three celebrity chefs. Start with frozen mocha cappuccino. Check. Add a few jelly doughnuts. Sounds good. Throw in…Read More
Most children say “good night” to their parents face to face, and the word is whispered back with the implied promise of tomorrow. Children in an orphanage dream…Read More
For Megan Polson, empathy is a mighty motivator.
“I know how it feels to be out on the streets with nothing, and then all of a sudden all these…Read More
One wants to help people. The other escaped a fire in her home. Both took on grueling training to become firefighters, a dangerous career requiring a quick mind…Read More
For more than 30 years, Mike and Brenda Jackson have been a team — one with a passion for service to their community. They’re the first married couple…Read More
Most people pursuing a career have a goals list centered around expanding their skill set, making industry connections and getting their work recognized. Miles George has that list…Read More
With cousins Nathan Andrade and Christian McLeod growing up nine streets apart, you might correctly assume they would have a close relationship. But while lots of cousins do…Read More
Brimming with ideas, Nathan Simpson isn’t going to let a little thing like youth stand in his way.
The high school senior, 17, recently was awarded a federal…Read More
Neal Foster says if you’re willing to put in the work, you can accomplish anything you want. After his first attempt in 2013, Foster’s work led to a…Read More
Ever meet a real “class act”? Nelson Barrios actually has an award for it.
To salute the student’s service to his community, a Boston TV news crew surprised…Read More
Nick Daddona grew up angry. Though he knew his adoptive parents loved him, Daddona felt rejected by the woman who had given him up for adoption.
“I was born…Read More
Sometimes it takes a competitive nature to make it to the top. But for Nick Peterson, it was just a matter of being the best he could be.
From living in a car to making her living working on cars. From a quiet student with poor English skills to a confident student leader delivering speeches at…Read More
Paloma Limas started dancing before she was born.
“My mom told me that whenever the music came on, [as a little girl] I was dancing around the house. Even…Read More
“It’s hard to keep trying when it looks like your family will never live a normal life.” That’s how Pedro Moreno says he felt, struggling with school and…Read More
Peter Wachtel is that wacky, wonderful teacher you’ll always remember. Engaging and fun, he allows imaginations to run wild in class.
The industrial technology instructor helps students…Read More
Thousands in developing countries have no access to education. Without it, they can do little to change the socioeconomic status of their impoverished lands. Phillip Marzocco Jr. wants…Read More
All Priscilla Creswell wanted was to focus on a career, even if it meant leaving her familiar high school. Even though her academic counselors advised against it, Creswell…Read More
Role models inspire. They encourage. They remind us that “difficult” doesn’t mean “impossible,” that we’re all capable of more than we give ourselves credit for. Rachel Arnold and…Read More
Rahsaan Gomes-McCreary has an affinity for underdogs. She’s made quite the comeback herself.
“For many years, I suffered internally, professionally, and I made some wrong choices as…Read More
At just barely 16 years old, Rawan Saleh was eager to participate in SkillsUSA’s national Advertising Design contest. She’d only arrived in America from her native Jordan three…Read More
Design director Rick Parker has won more awards than he can recall — Addys, Clios, Tellys — all the bullseyes that the advertising industry’s leaders aspire to hit…Read More
Take the lure of the open road, add the drive to be a leader and mix in ethics of steel, and you’ve got the career of Rick Peterson.
Camden, N.J., has been ranked as the most dangerous city in the United States. I lived there for 12 years. Each time I went outside could have been…Read More
Robert Figueroa grew up surrounded by gangs. He and his twin brother became involved by proximity.
“It’s not that I chose that life,” explains the resident of Florida’s Gulf…Read More
The mission: Build a reed ship and sail it 12,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean. Rod McCurdy, SkillsUSA’s national high school president in 1989-90, temporarily left his position…Read More
Rohini Dhand moved with her family from New Delhi, India, to the Wisconsin dairyland when she was 11 years old. At that age, starting at a new school…Read More
Running away from home age 14. Dropping out after the 10th grade. Overdosing on drugs at 18. Despite life’s most difficult setbacks, Ryan Fleenor never lost his entrepreneurial…Read More
Sometimes, you have to step outside your comfort zone, Samantha Dorwin says. With the help of a SkillsUSA advisor - who just happens to be her mom - she was…Read More
Stepping out of her comfort zone has led Sandra Timberlake into a whole new world of wonder. Wanting the same for others who’ve been in her shoes, she…Read More
For Sarah McCready, who’s currently deployed aboard a U.S. Navy vessel, being a sailor is in her blood. Being a team player is key to her survival.
“Without teamwork…Read More
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…Read More
Sherrie Wilcox, a resourceful, “can-do” woman, sold her home and purchased a 58-foot yacht to create a more mobile lifestyle. She soon realized she needed to be prepared…Read More
Shreela McFaddan first picked up a hammer when she was 3 years old. Her family was helping to build a cabin for her grandparents. The little girl just…Read More
When Stanley Morency was 5, his mother gave him her clothes dryer. He laughs when he tells the story.
“She’s probably the one who got me interested in electronics…Read More
Ask Stella Elder and Joel Chan what’s new, then get comfortable. You’ll be listening to this mother and son for more than a couple of minutes.
Since 2003, the…Read More
Stephanie Usry didn’t get elected president of the Central High student body by standing on the sidelines. She didn’t become SkillsUSA’s national high school president by hanging around…Read More
When Suzanne Raposo started kindergarten, she couldn’t speak English, and her teachers couldn’t speak Portuguese. She remembers her teacher asking her to take out a pencil and not…Read More
After losing four different jobs due to the economic downturn in Florida, single mother Debra Hancock decided it was time to do something to make herself more marketable…Read More
As a young technician, Tom Billigen was filmed for a recruitment video about the power equipment industry. Working on an engine, he looked into the camera and said…Read More
“I can remember a time when I couldn’t even leave my bed because I was so afraid of the unknown.”
There are many individual paths to the SkillsUSA Championships…Read More
The U.S. Army taught Tony Hamblin more than one set of skills. But after nearly 21 years of service, he was ready to leave the military and give…Read More
Tyler Brown is interested in all things aviation, especially avionics. “I like aviation, I like electronics. Why not do both?” he explains.
The SkillsUSA champion in Aviation Maintenance Technology…Read More
What’s your idea of perfect presidential material? A proven leader, from a large state like Texas, perhaps? Or maybe a candidate who’s tall, athletic and charismatic? How about…Read More
Step-siblings since kindergarten, Victoria Slagle and Tanner Hicks have always been raised as twins. It’s fitting, then, that their achievements in SkillsUSA have been similarly impressive.
Hicks, a 2009…Read More
Wonder Woman. Supergirl. Virginia Mata. The last of these may look out of place, but what else besides superpowers can explain how this petite young woman keeps doing…Read More
Soon after being elected a SkillsUSA national officer, Zachary Ferguson was asked about the benefits this new experience might bring. “SkillsUSA is building me up to become what…Read More