Executive Pastry Chef Jacqueline Mearman is a SkillsUSA professional partner intentionally hiring SkillsUSA alumni based on the personal, workplace and technical skills gained from participating in SkillsUSA. The company currently employs three alumni.
Two of them, Sierra Slocum and Heather Carpentieri, are former state competitors; a third, Josie Wolfe, is a past national officer and national competitor.
Thanks to the skill sets of these alumni, Atlas Restaurant Group has elevated its pastry program by including cutting-edge, multi-cuisine desserts and a special-order program for cakes.
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 always about the kids.”
A cosmetology instructor and chapter advisor at Blacksburg (Va.) High School, Price has many accomplishments that reflect her commitment. The former student member has been active in SkillsUSA for more than 34 years.
“I started as a student, and I’ve continued to stay involved throughout my career,” says the detail-oriented advisor.
While working in industry, Price judged SkillsUSA competitions and attended district, state and national conferences. After becoming an advisor, she connected back to her passion for the organization and even earned its elite International Degree.
Price says she wants to show her students what the organization can do for them, too, while helping each of them seek personal success. “I try to share with students my passion for SkillsUSA.”
She has been invaluable to the state leadership as well, serving on the SkillsUSA Virginia board of directors and as the state officer trainer. She is also a district chair and is active on the planning committee for the state leadership conference.
Price is proud of the many district, state and national officers she has prepared over the years. The state certified trainer has mentored 16 state officers, four national officers and worked with 10 national officers for SkillsUSA Virginia.
A true professional who exhibits extraordinary teaching and leadership skills, Price is dedicated to both her students and community. Her cosmetology students participate in SkillsUSA’s Week of Service. Their projects include working with the Girl Scouts and providing free haircuts for needy children.
“We give the county Department of Social Services coupons for haircuts that they can hand out to their clients,” Price explains.
Members also participate in a service program called Mika’s Backpack. “We help pack up food supplies to send home with students in need, so they have enough food and snacks for after school and weekends,” Price adds. Her chapter also has a lot of ongoing projects with local veterans’ groups.
The instructor looks for real-world experiences that teach time and project management while enhancing students’ technical skills and communication. To build an outdoor classroom and community garden, Price wrote an application and received a $10,000 SkillsUSA/Lowe’s grant for the school. Two of her students served as project managers.
“Lowe’s employees helped us plan it, and our drafting department helped design it,” she points out. Everyone in the area can now enjoy the classroom and garden. “The agriculture department helps maintain it, the culinary department hosts events there, and it is available for the community to use. It’s been a great asset for the community.”
In a new public relations effort, Price and her students were involved in a CTE Signing Day, similar to the events held for sports teams. “Athletes get all the attention, but we thought our students should get attention, too,” the advisor explains.
“We worked with the county and had great media coverage. We work with the media on a lot, and I try to stay as involved in the community as I possibly can.”
Price is fortunate to have support from the school administration and other instructors, but she accepts that not every teacher wants to invest so much personal time into the SkillsUSA chapter.
Raising money is also an issue. “There’s always fundraising,” she notes. “You work at it because we have to do it. As long as you stay positive and you promote your program, that’s the key.”
Because Price embraces a balanced SkillsUSA program of work, she gets involved in all its programs, from competitive events to the SkillsUSA Career Essentials suite and the Chapter Excellence Program. SkillsUSA has recognized her program as a Gold Chapter of Distinction for the past three years.
As much as Price is proud of the state and national recognition garnered for her school, she cares more about the individual lives she can touch. She remembers being a high school student herself and knows how one teacher’s support can make a huge difference. “I’ve been involved in SkillsUSA for 34 years, and my teachers always encouraged me,” she says.
Price recalls a recent student who had very little ambition. “The first day this student entered my classroom, she stated that she didn’t know what I could possibly do for her. I told her not to worry, because she would become a licensed cosmetologist.” After doing just that, her student is now enrolled in further schooling to get her esthetician’s license. She also became one of the strongest state SkillsUSA officers Price has ever had.
“I’m especially proud of her because her mom told me she was bullied at school and didn’t have much self-confidence. She is now a totally changed person,” Price asserts. “Any student can benefit from this organization.”
While this SkillsUSA advisor of the year, Sunday school teacher, mother of two and grandmother of four puts many hours into the program, she gets back more than she gives.
“To me, it’s not work,” Price says. “I’ve always told myself if it becomes a job, it’s time for me to stop. It’s not a job. It’s a passion.”
Are you interested in serving as an alumni volunteer for your SkillsUSA state association? Contact your state association director to get involved. Your help is needed, especially during state conferences. A list of state directors and their contact information can be found at: www.skillsusa.org/about/state-directors/.
Executive Chair: Jim Rhodes, New York
Region 1: Jaqueline Mearman, Maryland
Region 2: Denise Walker, Florida
Region 3: Jill Brebeck. Wisconsin
Region 4: Andrea Arbogast, Kansas
Region 5: Richard Gautier, Nevada
Executive Secretary: Ashley Hickey, South Carolina
Eric Hill, SkillsUSA Illinois State Director
Katie George, Business and Industry Representative from CareerSafe
The Alumni Executive Board and national headquarters staff would like to hear from you. Your success stories inspire current SkillsUSA members. We’d also like to hear ideas and suggestions for growth and alumni program improvement. For more information, email Taryn Zeigler at email@example.com.
For more information about SkillsUSA, contact:
The SkillsUSA Advocacy Site is a free service for SkillsUSA members to reach the news media or contact policymakers with your message.