Proving their skills at state competition, SkillsUSA secures seven gold medals

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By Harlan Rose
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(Matthew Kawamoto | Trojan Times) Joseph Fujinami (12) received a gold medal in the Architectural Drafting Competition. He was one of seven SkillsUSA gold medalists.

(Matthew Kawamoto | Trojan Times) Joseph Fujinami (12) received a gold medal in the Architectural Drafting Competition. He was one of seven SkillsUSA gold medalists.

After dedicating months to proving they could learn their skills in categories ranging from advertisement design to computer networking, the SkillsUSA team participated in the annual Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSO) Conference on Feb. 25 and 26 at the Hawaii Convention Center. Seven members were able to secure a gold medal in their specific competitions, advancing them on to the national conference.

“I really enjoyed (the SkillsUSA) Conference, it allowed me to get closer with my friends and make friends with people in (SkillsUSA) that I didn’t really talk to,” said Senior Jared Au, who placed first in the Networking Competition. “It was a rewarding experience and a good chance to be independent and experience challenges that I may encounter through a future in (Information Technology).”

In order to prepare for the conference, team members from all categories had to undergo extensive studying and training to acquire the skills necessary to do well in their competition. “Each competition is provided a study guide that contains sample tests and past project tasks, which I studied. I also had to study the different tools in Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop because the technical portion could test us on anything,” said Senior Lindsey-Reece Gano, who placed third in the Advertising Design Competition. SkillsUSA President Senior Joseph Fujinami added, “I prepared myself using past prompts, architectural textbooks and through my work in FIRST robotics. I benefited greatly from conversations and a job shadowing experience with architects.” Fujinami placed first in the Architectural Drafting Competition.

(Matthew Kawamoto | Trojan Times) (L-R): Tyler LaBonte (11) and Noah Evile (11) both brought home gold medals in the Mobile Robotics Competition.

(Matthew Kawamoto | Trojan Times) (L-R): Tyler LaBonte (11) and Noah Evile (11) both brought home gold medals in the Mobile Robotics Competition.

Furthermore, each of the competition teams received instruction and guidance from their adviser, Blaise Hanagami. “Hanagami met with us frequently and provided excellent guidance, which definitely helped us succeed. He was encouraging and told us to do our best and that while winning would be nice, the experience and fun that we’ll get from participating in (the) SkillsUSA Conference is the most important thing,” expressed Au.

With every competition comes a certain degree of nerves; for members of SkillsUSA, they stemmed from various sources, such as being a first-time competitor or working to uphold a legacy. “I was extremely nervous because it was my first time doing this competition,” Gano said. “I just had to trust in my skills and creativity.” Au added, “I was extremely nervous going into (the) conference, we had quite a legacy to keep up as MHS has placed (first through fifth) in the Networking Competition for over 9 years, and our team did not want to be the ones to end this proud tradition.”

The team’s hard work and dedication paid off, as SkillsUSA was able to bring home seven gold medals from the conference. “I couldn’t believe that I had won; the competition was extremely difficult and everyone on our team was so talented, we all prepared hard and gave it our all. I was relieved that all of our time and effort came to fruition and we managed to place (first through fifth),” expressed Au. Fujinami added, “(I was) extremely happy and relieved.  (I) never anticipated receiving first—it was a very difficult competition.”

While not everyone received a gold medal at the conference, those who placed were still pleased with the outcome of their competition. “When they called my name I was completely surprised and my mind kind of went blank. To be honest, I thought my competitors were extremely skilled and I didn’t think I had the chance of winning. After that, I just got super excited and I wanted to wear my medal all the time and tell everyone that I placed,” said Gano.

The seven gold medalists are currently preparing for the national conference by making improvements to their projects; additionally, some are seeking advice from SkillsUSA alumni. “One of the previous winners, (alumnus) Mick Marchan, is coming back to Hawaii during his college vacation, and he has graciously offered to assist me in preparing for the national conference—he placed eighth at last year’s national conference,” explained Au.

The national SkillsUSA conference will be held from June 20 to 24 in Louisville, Ky.