SkillsUSA Champions Honored at TSTC Luncheon

SkillsUSA Technical Computer Applications gold medalist Mikayla Walden (left) is congratulated by Barton Day, provost of Texas State Technical College’s Marshall campus, on receiving a special scholarship award from TSTC.

Texas State Technical College’s 2019 SkillsUSA champions from around the state took a final victory lap at a special luncheon held in their honor on Monday at TSTC’s Waco campus.

The 14 honorees were from the Harlingen, Marshall and Waco campuses. Provosts from those campuses presented 13 of the group’s current students with scholarships, while Cody Scheffe, a recent graduate who competed in carpentry, received a cash award.

All were participants at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference held last June in Louisville, Kentucky. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure that America has a skilled workforce.

TSTC Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer Jeff Kilgore emphasized that the college’s accomplishments at SkillsUSA rival those of participating educational institutions that have been around much longer than TSTC, citing as examples UCLA and the University of Texas.

“Texas State Technical College, in its short history, has more than 50 national championships. So at TSTC you and your predecessors have done something unique and special in all of higher education,” he said to the honorees.

Barton Day, provost of the Marshall campus, said that Mikayla Walden nearly did not compete in her category of Technical Computer Applications because it would have meant taking time off from work.

But that was the least of her worries.

“How about a tale of perseverance?” Day asked. He then related that when Walden finally did get to the national competition, she came down with food poisoning.

But Walden prevailed to bring home the first gold medal in the history of the Marshall campus.

Harlingen provost Cledia Hernandez noted that SkillsUSA helps to give students skills they will need in the real world.

“For our Harlingen students, the competition was Community Service,” she said. “It was a great testament to what TSTC is doing, even in the soft skills. It’s great to see that our students are becoming very well-rounded, and we’re preparing them for industry to make sure they’re meeting their needs.”

Waco provost Adam Hutchison beamed with pride as he presented awards to a large contingent of awardees, which included Erik Syck, who won a gold medal in Information Technology Services.

Hutchison noted that a factor in Syck’s decision to enroll at TSTC was the affordability of the program he wanted to study, Computer Networking and Systems Administration. He also said that Syck had learned he would need more than just technical skills to pursue his profession.

“(Erik) said, ‘One thing I learned from competing: It’s not only book knowledge that’s tested. You have to work on soft skills and your resume, as it’s becoming more and more important,’” Hutchison said.

Hutchison was especially proud to present an award to Residential Systems Installation and Maintenance medalist Rickie Hartfield, who brought home bronze after 16 hours of grueling competition.

“Rickie told me that he came to the competition, spent all day one day — eight hours, went back to his room, fell asleep, woke up, and came back and did another eight hours of competition,” Hutchison said. “We’re so proud of Rickie.”

Additionally, several TSTC advisors were presented with monetary awards for helping to lead the students to victory at SkillsUSA.