SkillsUSA student leaders headed to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 6, for Advocacy Day as part of SkillsUSA Week and Career and Technical Education Month. The 15 national officers met with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Dr. Michael Wooten, acting assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE). The meeting centered around the national officers’ personal stories and how SkillsUSA aligns with the secretary’s funding priorities.
The students’ day began with a tour of the White House, where they saw the East Wing of the residence and workplace of the president. The students experienced the rich history and art and heard stories from the Secret Service agents stationed in each room.
At the U.S. Department of Education, the SkillsUSA officers were interviewed by a staff videographer and had lunch before heading up to the secretary’s private conference room on the seventh floor. Joining the secretary and assistant secretary at the meeting were eight department officials with roles in career and technical education, rural education, youth engagement and community colleges. The officers had the opportunity to introduce themselves to the secretary and present a plaque. Robin Utz, chief of the Division of Academic and Technical Education in the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE), facilitated the visit. SkillsUSA is fortunate to have such good relationships within the Education Department administration.
Next, the students went to the U.S. Capitol for a private tour before three congressional appointments. They split into groups and visited the offices of Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (Va.) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (Ill.). The students focused their discussion on funding through the Carl D. Perkins Act, told their personal stories and advocated for career and technical education. SkillsUSA will follow up with a national outreach to encourage teachers and students nationwide to set up their own congressional visits and share personal stories.
Advocacy Day was part of SkillsUSA Week Feb. 4-10. The annual celebration, presented by Carhartt, represents over 335,000 SkillsUSA members nationwide. The week highlights the benefits of the SkillsUSA program in developing personal, workplace and technical skills grounded in academics. More than 4,000 schools were invited to participate this year.
“SkillsUSA Week is a time for us to spread the positive message of our organization and bolster support for local programs that define student excellence. The reach of SkillsUSA is of utmost importance as we work toward our goal of graduating 100,000 SkillsUSA students each year who are workforce-ready on Day One of their job,” said the organization’s executive director, Timothy Lawrence. “This is one of the most important weeks of the year.”
Other Activities for SkillsUSA Week
On Monday, Feb. 5, national officers traveled to three local SkillsUSA chapters to help them honor their teachers and administrators. Chapters included the Center of Applied Technology North in Maryland, visited by Maci Key, Josie Wolfe, Laila Mirza, Bryce Romero, Rosa Cartagena and Brenna Stinnett; Chester County Technical Schools Pickering Campus in Pennsylvania, visited by Lizetthe Moreno, Grace Kirrane, Madison Whitney and Scott Hicks; and Monroe Technology Center in Virginia, visited by Hunter Radford, Brad Ridder, Marangelis Lopez, Jeremy Copeland and Jade Barma.
On Wednesday, Feb. 7, Barma, Wolfe and Mirza teamed up with SkillsUSA Rhode Island director Josh Klemp and several state and chapter leaders to facilitate Jump into STEM! lessons at DelSesto Middle School in Providence and B.F. Norton Elementary School in Cumberland. The purpose of the workshops was to create an open door for younger students to consider career and technical programs when they enter high school.
On Thursday, Feb. 7, partnering with SkillsUSA Arizona director Robin Cronbaugh, Romero, Kirrane and Whitney joined officer trainer Chris Cronbaugh and state and chapter leaders at the St. Mary’s Food Bank of Phoenix. Throughout the state, local chapters collected canned goods to contribute to the SkillsUSA Week effort.
On Friday, Stinnett and Radford joined Lawrence and TV personality Kayleen McCabe on a trip to St. Helen’s (Ore.) High School, whose chapter won a SkillsUSA Week video contest.
The national officer team began its week with two days of training Feb. 3-4 with Courtney Ferrell, a program manager in the SkillsUSA’s Office of Education who serves as the team leader and trainer.
To see highlights of SkillsUSA Week in our Flickr album, including photos from all across the country, see the sidebar of this page.