WESTFIELD – The SkillsUSA Chapter at Westfield Technical Academy continues on despite restrictions due to the pandemic, according to Advisor and Allied Health Department Head Maureen Baillargeon.
Thirty-one students in the chapter, slightly fewer than in recent years, meet monthly via Google Meet. SkillsUSA officers were elected this year based on teacher recommendations.
Officers are President Kaden Rodriquez, Construction Technology; Vice President Delaney Kukucka, Electrical Wiring; Secretary Katelynn Pellegrini, Allied Health; Parliamentarian Sam MacMunn, Culinary Arts; Treasurer Meredith Ploof, Business Technology and Report Andrew Navarro, Collision Technology.
Baillargeon said their first community service event assisted the Cancer House of Hope with their annual Luminaria fundraiser on December 6. “We took three students socially distanced in a minibus to the West Springfield town green to set up the display,” she said. They planned to place wreaths at the Massachusetts Veteran Memorial Society for Wreaths Across America on December 19, however the group was cancelled because of the pandemic and the need for social distancing in the community.
Last week, Westfield Technical Academy participated in the 4th annual Senior Adventures in Leadership Conference on Feb. 11, a Virtual Event via ZOOM, for senior CTE students belonging to the national organization of SkillsUSA. The WTA chapter had six seniors participate this year: Mike Boucher, Sam MacMunn, Angie Oliyevska, Josh Pedro, Kaitlyn Priest, and Riley Sullivan.
Baillargeon said the conference had the goal of promoting world-class workers who are job-ready on day one. Multiple guests speakers and interactive training sessions kept the students engaged and focused on topics such as Financial Literacy, College and Career, “Your Best Foot Forward” Resumes, Cover Letters and Marketing Yourself, and Community Engagement for Life.
Jil-Lyn Wonoski, Director of Marketing and Business Development for Advantage Truck Group, which has a facility in Westfield, opened the Navigating Networking session and shared advice with students and key tips to guide their interactions. Wonoski stressed that students should take every opportunity to network, and to use social media to build a personal brand and new relationships, taking care to manage their online reputations.
The event included a graduation ceremony for its “SAiLers” who received the SkillsUSA honor stole and SAiL Diploma. An exciting and experiential learning experience was had by all, according to Baillargeon.
The SkillsUSA District Competition for District 6 will take place on Tues., March 9. Participating students will report that morning, to the school cafeteria, which is already set up with desks six feet apart for lunches, Baillargeon said. Students will wear their masks, as is the norm during the pandemic, and log into their specific contest via a link provided to them on their school Chromebooks. They will have 2 1/2 hours to complete their exams which consist of three tests, a SkillsUSA employability test-20% of the score, an OSHA safety test, 10%, and their shop content area test, 70%.
Baillargeon said they will have students participating in: Carpentry, Cabinetmaking, Electronics Technology, Automotive Service Technology, Diesel Technology, Collision Repair Technology, Culinary Arts, Restaurant Services, Customer Service, Nurse Assistant, Basic Health Care, Health Knowledge Bowl, Medical Math, Industrial Motor Control and Electrical Construction Wiring. The students will be competing against seven schools in the district.
Winners will be announced on March 18, and Gold and Silver medalists will advance to the State Competition in April. Baillargeon said the state will hold some of the contests such as the Health Knowledge Bowl virtually, via a Kahoot set up, and Medical Math via an online format. Hands on contests like Carpentry, Collision Repair, Culinary Arts, Nurse Assistant, and others will take place one day only at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational High School in Upton.
Baillargeon said the competitions will be for students only, with no observers, and a maximum of 12 students in each contest. She said all CDC social distancing rules and guidelines will be followed for everyone’s maximum protection, and there will be no onsite opening ceremonies, gatherings or award presentations.
“Our students are looking forward to the district qualifying competition to showcase their knowledge and theory of their shops,” Baillargeon said.