When Etzer Lindor first stepped into the hallways of Cape Cod Regional Technical High School as a touring eighth-grader, he realized something was different. In fact, the Harwich, Mass., school seemed to offer exactly what Lindor had been looking for: the opportunity to explore various trade skills and shape his future as he saw fit.
As a freshman at Cape Cod Tech a year later, Etzer found himself in a general freshman health science class taught by Dental Theory instructor Peggy Reilly-O’Brien. Just as Lindor recognized something special about his new school, O’Brien recognized something special in Lindor. “Etzer was in my class, and he stood out immediately,” Reilly-O’Brien says. “He was focused, polite and an A-plus student. I never had to redirect freshman behavior with him. I knew he was something special.”
As fate would have it, Reilly-O’Brien was also a SkillsUSA advisor. She encouraged Lindor to join, knowing membership would help the young student make the most of his raw potential. She was right.
Lindor grew to love SkillsUSA initially because of the endless friendships he made. He got involved in community service and met new people from all around the state (and later the nation). According to Lindor, SkillsUSA challenged him to step out of his comfort zone and improve his public speaking skills. He also credits the organization for the continuous improvement of his technical abilities in the skilled trade area he’s now chosen as his own: Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVACR).
The opportunities SkillsUSA has provided Lindor, both personally and professionally, have been limitless. And Lindor is making the most of them all.
“That’s what drove me to want to attend Cape Cod and explore all the opportunities that were offered as a technical student,” Lindor, now a senior at the school, says. “You can’t get that type of education anywhere else.”
That Gold Medal Feeling
Even before joining SkillsUSA, Lindor challenged himself in everything he did, and he was always drawn to public speaking. “I think it is so important for freshman students starting out in SkillsUSA to learn how to be professional and speak in front of others,” he says.
Lindor backed that sentiment up when he decided to compete in “Career Choice Commentary,” a SkillsUSA Massachusetts prepared speech competition for students exploring what trades interest them most. Lindor was one of two freshmen to compete on the district level. He won, eventually making his way to the SkillsUSA Massachusetts State Leadership & Skills Conference. He won there, too, with a perfect score. It was a huge accomplishment for any student, let alone a freshman. Lindor’s reaction fit the situation.
“When I won the gold medal, I screamed about three octaves higher than my normal voice,” he remembers. “I was really excited. I was so new to SkillsUSA, and it was my first gold medal, so it topped the other medals I have won. You will always remember the first medal that you get.” (He’s won five gold medals so far on the district and state levels, both in technical and leadership competitions.)
The word that comes to mind for Lindor when he remembers standing on the podium receiving that medal is “satisfying.” All the hard work paid off, and he had accomplished a big goal. That’s when he asked himself, “What next?”
That question was answered quickly when, as a sophomore, Lindor joined the HVACR program and found a love for exploring how refrigerators work while finding solutions to problems. He also realized that no one from his school had ever won gold in HVACR on the state level before. True to form, Lindor challenged himself to change that, setting a goal to train and perfect his skills.
As of this writing, Lindor has made it to the SkillsUSA Massachusetts SLSC after winning gold in HVAC at the district level. He’s poised to achieve his goal, and we’ll post an update once the results are in. Whatever those results, however, Lindor understands that technical skills are only part of the equation when it comes to the person SkillsUSA is helping him become.
As SkillsUSA chapter president, Lindor acts as a liaison between the chapter and the student body of his school. He also leads the chapter officer team in planning community events and meetings. “In terms of the student perspective, it is a very demanding role, and it’s one that I am truly proud of,” he explains.
In the SkillsUSA chapter at Cape Cod Tech, a student-run senate of elected members helps chapter officers with planning and carrying out school and community service events. The senate acts as a feeder for students interested in learning about the role of a chapter officer without having to fully commit to a position right away. It’s a great source of support for the chapter and a powerful recruitment opportunity.
“A lot of the reasons these students are in the senate is because of our chapter officers, in particular this year because of Etzer,” says Reilly-O’Brien. “He goes out to visit with other students and especially targets the underclassman who will someday take over the senate. This year’s team has performed some really robust recruitment by visiting classrooms and going to career fairs.”
“One of my main goals as chapter president has been to increase the number of freshman students in the chapter and create a welcoming experience for them when they first join SkillsUSA,” Lindor explains. Another goal accomplished.
This sincere concern for the success of others — not just his own — also highlights Lindor’s efforts to serve his community. Lindor explains that serving the community is “invigorating,” and that he helps himself by helping others. “Community service allows me to forget about all my problems, my goals, my wishes and pushes me to be that agent of change in someone else’s life,” he says. “I find that state of mind quite refreshing.”
One of Lindor’s favorite community service events was helping to plan and execute a community bike refurbishment. Members of the community donated bikes that were refurbished by the chapter then donated to local children through Habitat for Humanity. They were able to refurbish 15 bikes, which Lindor remembers as heartwarming.
The Jacket for the Journey
SkillsUSA’s new Journey of a Jacket program was tailor-made for a student like Lindor. Through Journey of a Jacket, students are given an official SkillsUSA red jacket as a gift from SkillsUSA supporters, a reminder that students are supported and believed in by members of their community. When Lindor found out about the opportunity, he went to work, pouring his love for SkillsUSA and how much it would mean to wear that jacket into his application essay.
Lindor was chosen as one of this year’s jacket recipients. As expected, it was a perfect fit.
“It’s all about the SkillsUSA pride and my love for this organization,” he says. “When I am tired and have homework to do after school, that is what pushes me. I now understand what this organization means to my future.”
Lindor’s future looks as bright as his attitude, and he plans to continue in the HVACR field after graduation, working during the summers while pursuing a bachelor’s in biology in college. He was most recently honored by the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators as the Vocational Student of the Year for Cape Cod Tech. To top his exceptional accomplishments so far, Lindor is graduating high school this year as valedictorian of his class, a fitting nod to the SkillsUSA Framework’s three components: Personal Skills, Workplace Skills and Technical Skills Grounded in Academics.
“I have applied myself in SkillsUSA as a chapter officer, volunteer, and competitor,” Lindor reflects as he prepares for what’s next now. “Ultimately, through SkillsUSA, I have become a living Champion at Work.”