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Catoctin students excel at
National SkillsUSA competition

Susan Allen
Thurmont Dispatch

(8/7) Five Catoctin High School students were among 19 Frederick County Career and Technology students who competed recently in the National SkillsUSA Championships in Kansas City, Mo. Four of them placed in the top 10 nationally in their skills contests, as did 11 others from the county.

Elyssa Cool and Myra Derbyshire received third place bronze medals in the fields of First Aid/CPR and Prepared Speech respectively. Seth Sweeney placed sixth in Employment Application while Tyler Bennett and his partner Derek Hink from Linganore High School placed tenth in TV/Video Production. Eric Hamrick competed in computer-assisted Architectural Design. All Maryland students who ranked in 4th-10th places received a certificate of achievement from the state SkillsUSA program.

This was Cool’s second trip to the national contest. In 2006 she competed in Nursing Assisting and finished eighth. Since then she has qualified as an emergency medical technician and graduated from CHS. In June she received the Dr. George Morningstar scholarship from the Emmitsburg Lions Club. She is enrolled at Frederick Community College to study for a degree as a paramedic. Her career goal is to become a flight paramedic. “Kansas City is so much fun…tall buildings and fountains everywhere.”

Myra Derbyshire, a rising senior at CHS who plans a career in business, studies marketing at Career Tech and “thought I’d try public speaking” because the program includes working with Toastmasters and the Rotary Club. Kansas City “was beautiful,” she said, “a good culture shock.” The organizers planned lots of activities, including a mixer with music and games, and “just enough free time” to meet others and explore the city a bit.

Sixth-place finisher Seth Sweeney said “it was a lot of hard work” putting together a book of his classroom preparation and completed work from Career Tech. The project was one part of his qualification process for the Employment Application category. But the trip to Kansas City, including a visit to a music park, was “really great.”

Reflecting on their experiences, all the Catoctin students rated meeting fellow competitors from other states and U. S. Pacific and Caribbean territories as the highlight of their trip. As in the Olympics, participants arrived in Kansas City wearing T-shirts and bearing pins with an original state design. Trading the pins was a favorite free-time activity. “Everyone wanted to get one from Hawaii or Guam,” said Tyler Bennett, who added that the “whole thing was a blast!” A baseball fan, he especially enjoyed the chance to go to a Kansas City Royals game, amazed to find “a waterfall in center field” in “the city of waterfalls.” Bennett and his partner had to create a promotional television advertisement for a randomly selected local attraction, a three-day assignment which included on-site filming at Kansas City’s Steamboat Museum.

Eric Hamrick was “disappointed at first” about finishing out of the top ten, but enjoyed the competition itself. He learned from other students that the Maryland Skills USA program is more challenging than that in some states, because students must compete at local, regional, and state level to qualify for the national championship. Hamrick also graduated in June, and will be attending the University of Maryland, “probably” majoring in architecture.

The National Skills USA event is the showcase for the best career and technical students in the nation. More than 5,000 students participated in eighty-seven technical and leadership contests in Kansas City. Frederick County’s Career and Technology Center offers twenty-four career-specific programs for students in grades 10-12.

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