Local Platte County youth do well at SkillsUSA Nationals

Medals: Medals are the silver medals won by Addisyn Saukkola and Alexis Atwood. The girls get one for around their neck, and the school is given one to display in a trophy case. Pic 4 Guernsey-Sunrise students along with people from other states having fun at the Support Skilled Trades vendor booth in Atlanta. Pic 6 Wyoming adviser of the year, Guernsey-Sunrise’s own Troy Reichert pointing at the Wyoming kids after receiving his plaque for Region 5 adviser of the Year. Pic 7 Guernsey-Sunrise student Addisyn Saukkola on the right finishing second place in Job Skill Demo. Gold went to Texas and bronze went to Hawaii Pic 8 SkillsUSA students hanging out at Centennial Olympic Park across the street from the hotel. Pic 10 is Domonic Ramirez with the other Facilithon competitors. Dom received a $500 scholarship from the Facilithon to help cover travel expenses to the conference Pic 11: Alexis Atwood on the national stage getting her Runner-Up medal.

ATLANTA, GA – The group of kids from Platte County started four years ago with only a handful of students.

In four years’ time, the group has gone over 60 in number, they have done everything from remodeling a vintage Guernsey building, began work on the oldest YMCA in Wyoming and have had an adviser in Troy Reichert who was awarded the Wyoming adviser of the year in April, I was selected the Region 5 adviser of the year. Winners from all 5 regions in the United States were recognized on stage and given a plaque. The adviser from region 1 was selected national adviser of the year

62 middle school and high school kids were in SkillsUSA including 2 counselors. 26 high schoolers and 4 middle schoolers competed at state. 10 of the 30 competitors qualified for nationals.

Taylor Marshall is home-schooled living in Wheatland and she was our chapter treasurer and the only one from outside the Guernsey area.

The National Leadership and Skills Conference saw over 12,000 competitors and advisers from middle school, high school and post-secondary schools descend on Atlanta this past week, with 12 of those in attendance coming from the Guernsey-Sunrise SkillsUSA chapter.  

The 10 students and two advisers left Guernsey at midnight for a 5:45 a.m. flight on June 19, but with several cancellations and delayed flights overflowing the Denver airport, they were literally seconds from missing their flight!  Thankfully everyone boarded safely and they landed in Atlanta shortly after 10 a.m. to begin their week.

To avoid extremely high airfare, the group landed in Atlanta a day early and made time to enjoy the Georgia Aquarium on Monday before attending the Wyoming state delegation meeting that night.  After instructions from Wyoming SkillsUSA state director Janie Wilcox, the students prepared for their orientation meetings the next morning.  

Tuesday was full of orientation meetings for all of the competitors, while Addisyn Saukkola also competed in middle school Job Skill Demonstration that afternoon.  The kids (and advisers) found out just how big the Omni Hotel/CNN Center was as they traveled thousands of steps each day under one roof to get to their meetings and competitions throughout the week.  

The State Farm Arena and the Georgia World Congress Center are also housed within the building, and escalators and elevators were in constant use as competitors traveled a building that the kids all agreed has to be as big as Guernsey itself.

Wednesday saw the other 9 competitors competing in Pin Design (Alexis Atwood and Afton Kelley), American Spirit (team of Leni Dimas, Jackson Smith, and Liberty Whitebird), Facilithon (Domonic Ramirez), and Community Service (team of Lily Ahrens, Rylie Thompson, and Paige Andrews).  Wednesday evening was an evening of honors and recognitions at the State Farm Arena.  

Troy Reichert, Guernsey-Sunrise SkillsUSA adviser was recognized onstage as a finalist for the National adviser of the Year award, and he received a plaque for being selected as the Region 5 adviser of the Year.  Region 5 includes 13 states from Montana down to New Mexico, and all states west including Alaska and Hawaii.  The Region 1 adviser from New York was named the national adviser of the year.  

The evening concluded with a music concert from FloRida that the kids all enjoyed.

On Thursday the students returned to their competitions for debriefing sessions that gave the students valuable insight from the judges regarding what they did well and what they need to focus on improving for next year.  Thursday evening concluded with an evening in Centennial Olympic Park that had music, games, and fireworks while kids from all over the country socialized and traded their state pins with each other.

Friday was finally a day for the group from Guernsey to sleep in a little and then tour the World of Coca-Cola.  

“The evening concluded with the exciting Awards Ceremony, and State Farm arena was electric as kids from across the nation waited to see if they would be National medalists in their competitions,” Reichert said. “Middle schooler Alexis Atwood was the first student from Guernsey to hear her name called to the stage Friday night.  Shortly after, she would find herself standing on the podium as the middle school National Runner-Up in Pin Design, receiving a silver medal for her efforts.”  

Shortly after, middle schooler Addisyn Saukkola was also called to the stage for Job Skill Demonstration Open, and she also received a National Runner-Up silver medal.  

“Although the 8 high school students didn't hear their names called to the stage, several of the chapter members received "Skill Point" certificates,” Reichert said. “The Skill Point certificates are given to competitors who meet a predetermined score that the judges of each competition feel is deserving of recognition, whether they finish in the top three or not.” 

Receiving Skill Point certificates from Guernsey included Addisyn and Alexis from middle school, and Rylie Thompson, Paige Andrews, Lily Ahrens, and Afton Kelley from high school.  

After a long week of competing, sight-seeing, lots of walking and riding escalators and elevators, the group from Guernsey was ready to set their feet back on Wyoming soil.  As for what they learned from their experiences, the following quotes were given:

Leni Dimas said, “I learned that there's a lot of diversity and different opinions throughout the states, and you can make good friendships if you expand your comfort zone.”

Lily Ahrens said, “I learned that there's so much more outside of Wyoming, and that it's ok to get outside your comfort zone and try new things.”

“It was just interesting to see what other people did artistically in the pin design competition and seeing all of the other designs and creativity from other minds was fun to see,” said Afton Kelley. “I also enjoyed talking to them and learning why other competitors came up with the designs they did.”

“As for the biggest challenges the kids faced during the week, Liberty Whitebird didn't like breathing the heavy, humid air, and it was hard to keep her hair from frizzing up,” Reichert said. “Lily and Leni said that figuring out the entire competition process and not getting into your own head and overthinking the competition was difficult because it was their first trip to nationals.  Domonic and Afton were challenged by the size of the building and the massive amount of people that they were constantly around.  Paige admitted that it was difficult to socialize with new people while trading pins and meeting new people, and performing in front of national judges was also nerve-wracking.”

As for what their most fun experience was, the FloRida concert and fun in the park were the top choices, while Rylie enjoyed the Ferris wheel and seeing the aquarium.  The opening ceremonies light show, trading pins, and relaxing with the group away from competitions was also mentioned.

And how did the two National Runner-Ups feel about the week? Saukkola said that it was really cool and she feels more confident.  "When I heard my name called to the stage for top 3, I was excited, and then when I didn't get third I was thrilled to get second," Saukkola said.  Alexis said being called to the stage was "nerve-wracking because I never thought it would happen, and then all I was thinking was 'how do I get down to the stage'"!  When Alexis watched a student from Hawaii go to the podium in third, she thought "dang, I might actually have a chance at this!" but was very happy with her second place finish.

For more information about Skillsusa, you can go to skillsusa.org or skillsusawyoming.org.  

Dakota Conner, the outgoing four-year SKillsUSA member who was the outgoing president, went to Nationals as a Wyoming state officer. He was also interviewed by SkillsUSA magazine while he was there in Atlanta for his growth gained through SkillsUSA.

Perhaps a great way to begin the story is to share the words of outgoing Guernsey-Sunrise SkillsUSA president Dakota Conner who found purpose in this organization and with the help of his adviser, Reichert.

“How SkillsUSA has made me a better person for starters. Before SkillsUSA i wouldn’t speak in front of anyone. I would coward behind some to try and hide myself which isn't very easy. Now that isn't really a problem. I am much more comfortable speaking to large crowds. My first year in SkillsUSA I was a freshman. I went to Casper and competed for welding sculpture and I was the delegate for the next state officer team. I brought home bronze for welding sculpture. The very next year covid hit and state was canceled but that didn't stop people running for state officer. I ran for an officer position. I didn't get it the first time so I ran again the very next year and became the state reporter. My senior year was when I actually became an officer and helped with the conferences that we put on as a state such as fall conference and state conference but we traveled to WLTI (Washington leadership training institute) and traveled to Columbus, Nebraska, to take part in mid-America. When we traveled to Washington DC, in September. I stood across the street from the white house. I got to see the Washington Monument, the Martin Luther King Jr monument and saw the Lincoln monument. We spoke with senator John Barrasso and representative Liz Chaney and spoke with them about the importance of CTE (career and technical education) in schools. In February We spoke with Brian Schroeder, the Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction. We spoke with him about the importance of CTE and the Hathaway. We also sat in on a legislative session and watched the voting process they do at a state level. If you ever get a chance go up to the rotunda and look for my name as a state officer team we were the first one to go up and sign all our names. This summer I get to go to Atlanta, Georgia, and help them with nationals sadly not competing but i'm still glad i get to go. SkillsUSA has been a huge eye opener and a huge factor to my life. I have gotten multiple job offers through SkillsUSA since I was a freshman. I've been offered to go work for Peabody and work for some contractors that are based out of Casper and other places in Wyoming. SkillUSA is a great opportunity for every student to join from middle school to post-secondary. It opens the world to many other professions and many other trades that might not be taught at school. These four years as a SkillsUSA member have been great and I can't wait to work alongside the state director and the future officer team.”

There are two Skilled Trades Camps that are upcoming to work at the town of Sunrise. The boys will be there learning and working from July 17-23 and the girls camp will be from July 31-Aug. 6. Skilled Trades Camps are separate from the school. SkillsUSA Wyoming is a sponsor of the camps.

Medals: Medals are the silver medals won by Addisyn Saukkola and Alexis Atwood. The girls get one for around their neck, and the school is given one to display in a trophy case. Pic 4 Guernsey-Sunrise students along with people from other states having fun at the Support Skilled Trades vendor booth in Atlanta. Pic 6 Wyoming adviser of the year, Guernsey-Sunrise’s own Troy Reichert pointing at the Wyoming kids after receiving his plaque for Region 5 adviser of the Year. Pic 7 Guernsey-Sunrise student Addisyn Saukkola on the right finishing second place in Job Skill Demo. Gold went to Texas and bronze went to Hawaii Pic 8 SkillsUSA students hanging out at Centennial Olympic Park across the street from the hotel. Pic 10 is Domonic Ramirez with the other Facilithon competitors. Dom received a $500 scholarship from the Facilithon to help cover travel expenses to the conference Pic 11: Alexis Atwood on the national stage getting her Runner-Up medal.

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