Rifle High School students head to nationals for SkillsUSA | PostIndependent.com

Rifle High School students head to nationals for SkillsUSA

Rifle High School's 2019 SkillsUSA team from left to right: Robert Winn, advisor, Tegan Costanzo, parlimnetraian, Heber Luevano, reporter, Caitlin Aispuro, treasurer, Jonny Aldaz, president, Ezra Evans, vice president, Paul Cerros, historian, Cole Hawkinson, automotive technology service. Not Pictured: Jackson Davis, secretary.
Alex Zorn / Post Independent

While Rifle High School auto shop students like to spend most of the school year under the hood of a car, for the past several months seven students in the program practiced and developed new skills for their future careers. 

Last month, the Rifle High School students put the skills they practiced to use as they competed in the SkillsUSA Colorado State Leadership Conference in Colorado Springs. 

Rifle High School was one of only five schools to receive Quality Chapter Recognition and will be heading to National Championships later in the summer. 

SkillsUSA is a national organization that prepares students for careers in technical, skilled and service occupations. The organization focuses on vocational education and tests students on their technical and professional skills. 

For the first time ever, the team received a Chapter of Distinction Award, said Rifle High School Automotive Instructor Robert Winn. 

For automotive students, developing leadership skills is not often among their top interests, but Winn said the skills they learned over the past several months wills serve them regardless of their career path.

Winn added that the skills they practiced, which included public speaking, professionalism and other skills, will open doors to new professional opportunities for the students as they are now better job interview subjects, extemporaneous speakers and more.

In Winn’s six years teaching the program, this is just the second SkillsUSA team he’s been able to field. Both teams qualified for state. 

Team treasurer Caitlin Aispuro said the team came in with a lot of extra motivation to set new highs for the program with it being Winn’s last year with the high school. 

Winn said the real accomplishment is getting seven students to dedicate their time and effort to each other and to show up for over four months of practice. 

Ezra Evans, vice president of the Rifle High School SkillsUSA team, said they practiced twice a week for several months, and Aispuro said the practice has given her a lot more confidence in public speaking. 

“One of the challenges is getting seven students to commit,” Winn explained. “If one of them didn’t show up, the whole team wouldn’t make it. Other teams that were going to compete against us fell apart.” 

At the regional competition, Rifle High School was one of the smaller schools represented as the team competed against top students from Colorado. 

In addition to the leadership competition, Cole Hawkinson was one of only two students on the Western Slope to qualify for the state competition in automotive technology. 

Though he did not place in the top three and therefore did not qualify for nationals, he scored the highest placing of any Rifle student since 2013. 

The Rifle High School Skills-USA team consisted of Tegan Costanzo (parliamentarian), Heber Luevano (reporter), Caitlin Aispuro (treasurer), Jackson Dazis (secretary), Ezra Evans (vice president), Paul Cerros (historian) and Jonny Aldaz (president). 

The team will now go to the National Competition and Leadership Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, from June 24-28 to face off against teams from across the country. 

Winn estimated the trip will cost with hotel rooms for eight people, travel and food to be around $8,000. 

The team has already begun fundraising for the trip as it plans to host the Second Annual Minter Car Show during Rifle Rendezvous later this year. The car show will take place on Saturday, May 18. Anybody interested in sponsoring the trip or helping with the car show should contact Robert Winn at 970-665-7762.  


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