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Previous story SkillsUSA motivates and inspires Woodland High School and with the State Championship title this year Next story
  Caitlin became interested in SkillsUSA during her Freshman orientation last year when she saw a group of students wearing red blazers.   Many members graduated or were unable to compete in their preferred activities due to the pandemic.  

Story by The Oregon Herald Staff
Published on Tuesday May 11, 2021 - 1:34 AM
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WOODLAND, Washington - Caleb Mouat, a senior at Woodland High School, won the SkillsUSA State Championship with teammates Caitlin Nelson and Oliver Rosas also competing in the program's virtual championship due to restrictions to prevent the spread of covid-19. Team members credit their SkillsUSA experiences for helping to inspire and motivate them to pursue career paths while still in high school.

SkillsUSA, a national extracurricular program, offers high school students the opportunity to compete in 100 different workplace categories (many categories had to be restricted this year due to the pandemic). Categories focus on technical, workplace and personal skills including early childhood education, culinary arts, computer literacy, customer service, professional development and public speaking among many others.

During the regional, state and national competitions, students in each category compete in events which may include a combination of written and practical activities. For example, during normal years, students competing in Customer Service must take a written test followed by a demonstration of their skills during real scenarios with challenging customer service activities such as helping a disgruntled customer return a purchase while managing phone calls, other employees and additional customer inquiries, all at the same time.

Caleb Mouat won the state championship for the category Prepared Speech and Extemporaneous Speech and will move on to compete at the national championship. Caleb's teammates, Caitlin Nelson, a sophomore, and Oliver Rosa, a senior, also competed at the virtual state championship. "I am so proud of all three for sticking it out through all of the ups and downs of virtual competition," said Kimberly Miller, CTE teacher at Woodland High School and adviser for the SkillsUSA team. "They are all champions to me."

Kim wants to get the word out to incoming and current high school students to increase enrollment in the school's SkillsUSA team as many members graduated or were unable to compete in their preferred activities due to the pandemic. "When we first started years ago, our team only competed in one category, but now we compete in restaurant service, job interview, community service, chapter excellence, medical terminology, pin design, extemporaneous speech, job demo and so much more," she said. "In order for the team to succeed, I'm at the school a lot after hours helping the students; I make the time commitment because I see the difference the program makes for our kids."

Caleb joined SkillsUSA after seeing students practicing for the Restaurant Service category after one of his culinary classes. "I was really curious and signed up for prepared speech," he said.

Unlike many people – both students and adults – who dislike public speaking, Caleb excels while being the center of attention, "I've been involved in drama my entire life, and I love using my voice to present material and keep a room interested," he said. "While high school provides you with a lot of experiences, I feel SkillsUSA picks up where high school stops by offering you the opportunity to interact with students both from other schools in the state but also on a national level; you get to meet new people who share interests with you and make friends with people from all over the country."

Caitlin became interested in SkillsUSA during her Freshman orientation last year when she saw a group of students wearing red blazers around a table during the extracurricular activities fair, "I have a very competitive personality and the program sounded fun, so I signed up."

For her first year, Caitlin competed in two categories – Early Childhood Education and Quiz Bowl – then competed in American Sign Language (ASL) this year. "We used ASL to sign an entire story – either a previously written children's book or one of our own creation," she explained. "SkillsUSA offers you the chance to develop the skills you will need for careers after high school, but also teaches integrity, respect, and how to work as a team; not to mention that participating in SkillsUSA looks good on college applications."

Oliver admits to not noticing the SkillsUSA team for the first two years of his high school career, but once he signed up, he became hooked. "I joined so I could compete in Customer Service and experience the pressure of a real working environment first-hand," he said. "I also signed up with quiz bowl because it's just plain fun."

After his first year, Oliver took on the Technical Drafting category. Technical Drafting competitions involve students using Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) software to painstakingly design blueprints of parts for machines, houses, and more projects where measurements must be perfectly accurate. "The grading is brutal since the judges grade each and every single element of a design," said Oliver. "The dimensions must be fully and completely defined."

Thanks to his experiences with SkillsUSA, Oliver intends to pursue engineering as a career. Starting this fall, he'll attend Clark College with the hope to attend Washington State University where he will major in Civil Engineering. "I would strongly recommend SkillsUSA for anyone," he said. "My biggest recommendation is to consider all the available activities and pick the ones you have the most interest in."