SkillsUSA Competes At Regionals

Corey Ocasio, Writer

On Jan. 28th and Feb. 3rd, Downey High School’s Leadership and Skills teams competed against multiple rival high schools located throughout Santa Barbara, Ventura,  Los Angeles and Orange Counties at LA Trade Tech College,  in hopes of advancing to the state level.


Of the teams from Downey High that participated, those partaking in the tournament included Photography, Health, Robotics, and many others as well. Members of Skills such as senior Leslie Paniagua, who competed for Photography, were determined to succeed and defeat their local high school from Santa Barbara, Venture,  Los Angeles and Orange county counterparts the minute they set foot in the building.


“I was very confident that my team was gonna win once we arrived,” Paniagua said. “We practiced and prepared a lot in advance so that we wouldn’t be nervous and overwhelmed the moment competition day came.”


Omar Campos, 11, who is a CNC Milling Specialist, reflects on his experience competing in regionals and what he enjoyed the most and felt was challenging during his part of the competition.


“I thought the environment was a little hectic and crazy with all the competitors running around,” Campos said, “but it was overall a really great turnout.”


Competing in Skills-related events like Saturday’s requires a good amount of preparation, practice and strategic planning, but senior Brian Astudillo who has been participating in the organization since last year is always up for the challenge.


“Sometimes it’s a little difficult to perform all the tasks, but it’s also fun learning how to use the machines,” Astudillo said, “plus when we go to state we get to go out somewhere and meet new people and that’s a bonus.”


In order to get ready for competitions, students have to study and practice for weeks at time keeping in mind that they are going against some of the most talented and skilled students in the state, as well as the country if they advance to Nationals, staying for hours after school and sometimes and most of the time even sacrificing their weekends during competition session.


Saul Garfias, who joined SkillsUSA this year and is part of the Automated Manufacturing Tech field headed by Mr. Appel, explains what he did in order to prepare for Saturday’s competition.


“A lot of times we have to stay after school ‘till six or seven on wednesdays every week just to prepare,” Garfias said. “I also had to communicate with my team members alot just so we could be able to know if there was anything lacking or that we needed to fix with our part and the presentation.”


As nerve-racking as having the opportunity to partake in a competition may seem to someone on the outside, students who are members of SkillsUSA find the experience rewarding as it prepares them for greatness and gets them conditioned into becoming strong leaders for the 21st century and contributors to society.


Carmen Rea, 12, who participated in the Health Knowledge Bowl, describes what she gets out of being a part of SkillsUSA and the confidence she has each time she competes against other schools.


“I like competing in Skills because of my group and the friends I have made so far being in the club,” Rea said. “Competing for me is very nerve-racking but luckily I have my team there to calm some of those nerves and it overall is a great experience.”


Saul Garfias touches on the satisfaction he gets knowing that he is representing and showcasing Downey High school in a positive light along with other talented students involved in the club.


“I enjoy being able to represent my school and put Downey on the map,” Garfias said, “and showing that the students from Downey are intellectually capable and have a lot to offer being a part of Skills.”


Mrs. Vadgama, who is the lead advisor for the six-year-old club at Downey High, wants her students to understand that they do not need to bring back gold medals but to prove that they are accomplished and have the potential to become world-class leaders and globally competitive.


“I want every student to leave with a great experience and know that they are all hard-workers and ready to be competitive in the world of college and 21st century workforce,” Vadgama said.


The results of the competition were released almost a week later on Friday February 9 with 20 gold medalists, 15 silver, and 20 bronze. With their success, those contestants and 41 others placing lower will be able to advance to the State competition in Ontario and potentially have a shot competing at the national level which is held in the Kentucky.