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 School in Leon, Kan.
“I’m one of those energetic people who only needs a little-bitty power nap to get going again,” explains Colleen Turner. It helps her to not only maintain a hectic schedule, but also see new opportunities.
For example, after spotting a sign for a SkillsUSA meeting, she soon found herself winning Prepared Speech events. “I took the place of another competitor,” Turner says, “and took third place at states,” making her the first from her school to win a SkillsUSA medal in a state competition. The following year, she made it to the nationals, another first for Bluestem.
When a sign led to a career exploration event, nuclear engineering caught her eye. “I thought, ‘I want to do that,’ because my mom always told me my favorite thing to do was blow stuff up,” Turner laughs.
Chemical engineering turned out to be a better fit than nuclear, and Turner has since narrowed her field to aeronautical chemical engineering. As a sophomore and the youngest student in her chemistry class, she achieved a 100-percent grade.
“My great-grandfather, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, said, ‘Hey, we don’t have anybody from your generation going in the Navy,’ ” she adds. “So, I’ve decided I want to be a chemical engineer through the Naval Academy.”
She’s also trained to become a world-class athlete in track and field. Turner started throwing the discus in seventh grade and the javelin in high school. In August, she flew to Australia to represent the United States in the Down Under Sports program, sponsored by International Sports Specialists Inc. Turner placed first in javelin throw — a personal best of 96.2 feet — and 10th in discus.
While she does sing soprano in her school’s madrigal choir, Turner tends to choose activities that aren’t traditional for female students. She plays the trombone in Bluestem’s jazz and concert bands.
As she waits for word about getting into the Naval Academy, Turner accepts the challenges of entering the male-dominated institution in Annapolis, Md.
“SkillsUSA shows American youth that there are options, and that anyone can do what they set their mind to do. Using that as my personal motto helps me get through everything.”
Turner advises girls to go for it. “Like President Obama said, ‘Make the change.’ I’m determined to make the change and help other females see that this is not a man’s world.”