Rifle mechanics team headed to nationals
Two weeks ago, a small group of Garfield Re-2 high school students headed out to the state SkillsUSA competition, and for the first time since 2010, Rifle High School qualified for the national competition this summer.
Now with less than two months to go before the competition, the Rifle High School automotive technology program is looking for support from its community.
“For those students representing Rifle High School, Coal Ridge High School and Colorado Mountain College this is a huge deal,” said automotive technology instructor Robert Winn. “Anybody who is willing to put forth the effort can be in the program, but they must commit to this pathway for their future.”
Formerly known as VICA (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America), 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 both their technical and professional skills.
While the Rifle High team, which includes a student from Coal Ridge High, finished strongly in the skills side of the competition, the students really shined in leadership and professional skills.
RHS sophomore Verania Chavez finished as state runner-up, winning silver in prepared speech. RHS junior Ulises Guzman placed third in state for extemporaneous speaking, and seven members of the team will be heading to Louisville, Kentucky, this summer to compete in opening and closing ceremony in nationals.
“I wanted to try something new and this course really made me step outside of my comfort zone,” said Chavez, who is also the parliamentarian on the opening and closing ceremony team.
The opening and closing ceremony included a formal presentation, in which each member of the team explained a different aspect of the ceremony to a panel of judges. Students were judged on their ability to remember lines, presentation, synchronization, public speaking, enunciation and more.
Heading to state this summer, the opening and closing ceremony team includes president Trent Smith (CRHS senior), vice president Hunter Marney-Jorgenson (RHS senior), parliamentarian Verania Chavez (RHS sophomore), reporter Ulises Guzman (RHS junior), secretary Victor Sotelo (RHS junior), ambassador Colton Sheridan (RHS junior) and alternate Devon Wright (RHS junior).
Rifle High School was also recognized as a quality chapter, one of four programs in the state to receive national recognition.
While SkillsUSA focuses on vocational education and professional skills, that is only one portion of the competition. The other is being able to present those skills in a professional setting, whether that is through job interviews or extemporaneously speaking. It is in the latter portion of the competition where the Rifle High School team finished at the top in state, despite competing against programs three times in size and larger.
“I think one thing that’s helped us is that we’re still small enough to be intimate for instructors to work with each individual student,” Winn explained. “Our biggest asset is being able to spend time with students. It doesn’t kill my class to spend 25 minutes instructing one kid.”
CMC welding instructor Jason Shoup, who instructed the welding fabrication team that finished sixth in state in a seven-hour competition, added that it was great to see that the Rifle High team is up there with the other teams at state.
The Rifle High automotive technology is a rigorous program that requires a full commitment by each of its students and places them either in automotive technology or CMC welding, taught by Shoup. While the automotive technology course prepares students to walk into an entry-level automotive technician position with success, CMC welding teaches the skills and knowledge to be an entry-level welder. Students are expected to show up on time, call ahead if they will be absent and spend as many as three hours in the shop every day. Those in the CMC Welding course receive college credit.
The national SkillsUSA competition will take place in Louisville June 19-23 and the team must raise around $8,000 for the trip. Fundraisers will be ongoing this summer, and anyone looking to donate can contact Robert Winn at either firstname.lastname@example.org or can call the auto shop at 970-665-7762.