Smith Voc students to put their skills on display in state competition

  • Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School sophomore Leyla Betances of Amherst, studying criminal justice, is preparing for the state SkillsUSA competition in Marlborough at the end of April. Kevin Gutting—Kevin Gutting

  • Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School sophomore Austin Christensen of Amherst, studying criminal justice, is preparing for the state SkillsUSA competition in Marlborough at the end of April. Kevin Gutting—Kevin Gutting

  • Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School junior Angela Jacob of Chester, studying manufacturing technology, is preparing for the state SkillsUSA competition in Marlborough at the end of April. Kevin Gutting—Kevin Gutting

  • Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School senior Kailey Bak of Chesterfield, studying health technology, is preparing for the state SkillsUSA competition in Marlborough at the end of April. Kevin Gutting

  • Smith Voke criminal justice sophomores Leyla Betances and Austin Christensen, both of Amherst, are preparing for the state SkillsUSA competition in Marlborough at the end of April. Kevin Gutting

  • Smith Voke collision repair teacher Michael Brooks, right, and academic teacher Shannon Brisbois talk with Smith Voke junior Claire Streeter, left, of Cummington, and Dakota Blakesley of Westhampton Kevin Gutting

  • Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School senior Kailey Bak of Chesterfield and junior Harrison Niemiec of Chester, both studying health technology, are preparing for the state SkillsUSA competition in Marlborough at the end of April. Kevin Gutting—Kevin Gutting

Published: 4/19/2016 2:04:39 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Some students will be asked to treat mock severed limbs, others will repair car fenders or program machine operations. Next week, Smith Vocational and Agricultural School is sending 21 students to the Skills USA conference in Marlborough, a trade competition and leadership event, where they will participate in categories ranging from collision repair to criminal justice.

“They could give you anything,” said senior Kailey Bak, 18, of Chesterfield, of the first aid competition. As someone who has competed all four years, and a certified EMT, Bak said she feels well prepared for any scenario that could be thrown her way.

The state competition, April 28 through April 30, follows a district competition last month. The school brought 96 students from 13 different shops to the district conference, earning medals in 20 of the 26 categories they entered. The district events involve multiple-choice tests, while the state competition is more hands-on.

Standing by a chalkboard full of numbers one morning last week, junior Clare Streeter, 17, was using a recent accident she had in her grandmother’s car to estimate how much repairs would cost — an exercise that’s part of the collision repair competition. She said she often stays after school to practice. To Streeter, there’s more at stake than just doing well. 

“It’s more about being able to prove as a girl in this shop, I’m just as good as the boys,” she said. “I can do everything they can do.”

Her classmate sophomore Dakota Blakesley, 16, of Westhampton placed second of twelve in the district conference’s auto refinishing event, an impressive feat for someone so young, their instructor Michael Brooks said. Blakesley, who will be attending the state competition for the first time, said he’s slightly nervous, particularly for a masking part of the event that would ask him to use tape and paper to protect parts of a car while painting. 

Senior Angela Jacob, 17, of Chesterfield is competing for her third year, and excited to have made it past the district competition for the first time. 

Her event involves CNC milling machines, a type of computer controlled machining center. Flipping through a binder full of notes, she explained the competition would involve following a blueprint to design a program for the machine. 

The school is also sending students from its new criminal justice program. Sophomores Austin Christensen and Leyla Betances, both 16 and from Amherst, said the district competition was easier than they expected, but weren’t sure what the state conference would be like. 

They’ve been practicing by role playing different scenarios, like home robberies and domestic violence cases, as well as traffic stops in the parking lot. 

Shannon Brisbois, who serves as one of the advisers for the Skills USA program, said students’ success at the district competition shows the strength of many of the school’s programs. 

And as someone who teaches English and history, it’s a great chance to see the students in their element. 

“It’s the best of the best in voke schools,” Brisbois said of the state conference, where students all sport red jackets. Last year, Smith Vocational sent a cosmetology student to the national conference. 

At the state competition, students will compete in the following events: collision repair, automotive refinishing, power equipment technology, plumbing, advertising design, graphic communications, basic health care, nursing assisting, first aid/CPR, CNC milling, electrical construction wiring, culinary arts, screen printing and criminal justice. Some are also participating in several leadership events. 

One aspect of the competition is job readiness, and students are asked to bring resumes and participate in mock interviews. 

The students all have different goals for the conference.

For Bak, competing in first aid/CPR, it’s attending the national competition, which would require winning gold in Marlborough.

As for her classmate Harrison Niemic, 16, a junior from Chesterfield: “Not to be last.”


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