In their first national competition, two Severna Park High School teams placed in the top 10 at the 59th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference held June 20-25 in Atlanta. Teams invited to the national competition had to win at their state level.
The team of Chris Ryan and Alyssa Wieland came in third place for the Community Action Project category. The other top Severna Park team came in 10th place for Opening and Closing Ceremonies. That team included Khyla Boodoo, Alyssa Coriano, Sydney Henson, Reilly Miller, Ty Miller, Chioma Mortanya and Mylia Phipps.
According to the SkillsUSA website, more than 6,500 career and technical education students competed in 108 trade, technical and leadership fields. Students worked against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting and culinary arts. Contests are planned and facilitated with the help of industry, trade associations and labor organizations, and test competencies set by industry. Leadership contestants demonstrated skills including extemporaneous speaking and conducting meetings by parliamentary procedure.
Michelle Dugans is the SPHS faculty coordinator for the SkillsUSA team. She said the team had just formed their charter and attended a fall leadership conference before the pandemic shutdown, so 2021-2022 was the school’s first full year of competing. After serving in the same role at Center of Applied Technology South for 14 years, Dugans was excited to bring SkillsUSA to Severna Park.
“SkillsUSA is a great program for professional development, leadership and employability skills that kids cannot get in the classroom,” Dugans said. “Severna Park has many great programs, but we are now the only comprehensive high school in the county to offer SkillsUSA.”
Chris Ryan and Alyssa Wieland created a business plan to benefit the special education students at Severna Park High School. They developed a plan to offer teachers a coffee cart that is run by the special education students. According to Ryan, the enterprising duo accomplished several goals with their coffee cart.
“The coffee cart brought teachers down to the special education wing where they interacted with the special education students. If not for the coffee cart, teachers wouldn’t have reason to come to this particular area of the school,” Ryan explained. “We heard from a lot of teachers that they were happy they didn’t have to make a stop on their way to school since they knew the coffee cart was available.”
While learning how to develop and execute a business plan, Ryan and Wieland were also teaching the special education students valuable employability skills, such as how to set up and tear down the supply cart; how to make coffee; how to take, prepare and serve customer orders; and cash management.
“The coffee cart accomplished many things, and I know the students liked running it,” Ryan added. “I know they enjoyed meeting new people, too, and I am going to stay friends with many of them. We have plans to keep the coffee cart running into the future.”
The Opening and Closing Ceremonies event was a scripted competition, meaning participants had to deliver a presentation where they were graded on numerous factors from a four-page rubric. Participants were graded on every aspect of making a presentation and public speaking including speech, delivery, body language, timing among teammates, and more.
“Before this year, I didn’t like public speaking,” said rising sophomore Ty Miller. “I feel like I grew a lot in my ability to communicate with strangers. I was pretty nervous at the state competition because I so badly wanted to go to nationals. I think I am a lot better at public speaking now.”
Ty Miller’s brother, Reilly Miller, has been active in theater since elementary school, but added that acting is different from public speaking. “I think I gained a lot of personal and professional skills through this experience. It was a really great opportunity.”
The seven-student team ranged from freshmen to seniors, and they didn’t know each other before the experience.
“I loved it,” said Ty Miller of the experience at both states and nationals. “We became a very close team and I think we are all excited to do it again next year.”
Dugan’s goal for this year was to simply get a callback at states, so having two teams place nationally was especially gratifying.
“The kids laid an amazing foundation to build on for next year,” Dugans said. “We are excited to continue to grow the program because what SkillsUSA offers is so very valuable.”
Dugans said that everyone has a place in the SkillsUSA program, the largest student organization in the U.S. with international chapters.
“Everyone needs skills,” Dugans said. “For students today, the jobs and careers they might have in the future haven’t even been invented yet, but skills like work ethic, willingness and drive will always be in demand.”
To learn more about SkillsUSA visit www.skillsusa.org or contact Dugans at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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