Shown are SkillsUSA students Matthew Mitchell, Jeb Sutton, Priscilla Rodriguez, Daniel Dingess, Jerry Lin, Michael Campbell, Jonathan James, Robby Wellden, and Stephen Fowler.
By Johnny Jackson
Jeb Sutton and his teammates celebrated like champions for their third- place finish in the National SkillsUSA Championships.
"All of us still felt like it was a great accomplishment," said Sutton, a member of Union Grove High School's SkillsUSA Quiz Bowl Team.
The team is the current state-level gold medalist, according to National SkillsUSA Championships organizers.
This year's national championship was held in June, as part of the SkillsUSA 47th Annual National Leadership and Skills Conference, in Kansas City, Mo.
The SkillsUSA Championships is the national-level competition for public high school and college/post-secondary technical students enrolled in career and technical education programs. Organizers describe the competition as one that pits peers against one another in tests of their knowledge and skills in various disciplines like robotics, criminal justice, aviation, and public speaking.
Union Grove's quiz bowl team was led by the school's SkillsUSA Advisor Debbie Peabody. The team consisted of seven rising high school seniors -- five competitors and two alternates.
Sutton acknowledged this year was his first year competing, though he has been involved in SkillsUSA for the past four years. He is the team's history buff, specializing in his favorite academic subjects -- World and U.S. History.
The seventeen-year-old described the rounds of competition as each containing 100 questions -- 30 were based on current events, 30 were SkillsUSA-related, and 40 were based on general academic knowledge.
"I was kind of nervous," he said. "But as we started getting into the rounds and everything, I got set into it.
"It was really fun," he continued. "It was a really good experience; we got to meet a lot of new people. We're all going to be back next year, so hopefully we can do better."
Members of the Union Grove team each earned the bronze medallions. They include Jeb Sutton, Michael Campbell, Daniel Dingess, Stephen Fowler, Jonathan James, Matthew Mitchell, and Robby Wellden.
"Over 5,600 students from every state in the nation came to compete in the SkillsUSA Championships...," said SkillsUSA Executive Director Tim Lawrence. "This is the SkillsUSA partnership at its best. Students, instructors and industries are working together to ensure America has a skilled work force and every student excels. These students prove that career and technical education expands opportunities."
Others from the area had solid performances in this year's National SkillsUSA Championships.
Union Grove's Jerry Lin placed fourth in the "related technical math" competition. Union Grove's 2010-11 SkillsUSA President Priscilla Rodriguez took 10th place in the "medical terminology" competition.
Rodriguez, who graduated from Union Grove this past May, said studying and competing in SkillsUSA may serve her well as she pursues a career in anesthesiology. This fall, the 17-year-old plans to major in nursing at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga.
"I think that, aside from the competition, the whole experience helps me build upon my leadership skills," said Rodriguez, a two-time national competitor in SkillsUSA. "It's definitely going to help me in nursing school. I tried my hardest, and I did what I could. It was a great experience, and I was glad to be able to represent the state again."
Hampton resident Leilani Tabares is another National SkillsUSA Championship honoree. Tabares, a student at Southern Crescent Technical College in Griffin, was awarded a "skill point certificate" in culinary arts. Union Grove's quiz bowl team also received skill point certificates for having achieved high scores in competition.