Connellsville Area Career and Technical Center hosts SkillsUSA competition

| Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 8:06 p.m.

After two days of delays because of weather, the SkillsUSA district competition took place in Connellsville with more than 200 students.

“It's our turn to host this year,” said Kahla Daniels, a SkillsUSA adviser and teacher at the Connellsville Area Career & Technical Center.

SkillsUSA provides quality education experiences for students in leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development.

Every year, the organization holds a national competition that brings together thousands of students from career and technical centers across the country after those students have succeeded at state competitions.

Daniels said the tech center makes up District Nine of the state's SkillsUSA coverage area of Central West, Fayette, Greene, Mon Valley, Connelly, Somerset and Western. This year the competition attracted more than 200 students, including approximately 60 from the Connellsville school.

Fifty judges, made up of teachers and professionals in the area, supervised the 30 competitions that included web design; welding; nurse assisting; nail care; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; first aid; firefighting; industrial motor control; electronics technology; crime scene investigation; customer service; collision repair technology; and culinary arts — to name a few.

With two days of school cancellations, the competition was held back until Thursday.

“We certainly appreciate the judges taking time out of their busy schedules to come here today,” said tech center director Linda Murphy.

Daniels said the teachers, judges and volunteers have been very flexible and helpful during the two-day delay and the students have been eagerly waiting to participate in the competition.

“They're excited about it, and that's the best part,” Daniels said. Students who take first place get to compete in the state finals in Hershey April 9-11. The state winners will participate in the national competition in Kansas City in June.

Eric Bell, a senior at the tech center, was competing in the crime scene investigation competition on Thursday.

With a goal of being a state trooper, Bell participated in SkillsUSA for the first time last year and took second place for a CPR competition and went to the state competition, taking fourth place in a team business competition.

“I'm excited, ready to go and want to win,” Bell said prior to Thursday's competition, for which he said he practiced a good bit, but a student never knows on what they'll be tested. “It's like walking into a real crime scene.”

Keary May, a senior at the tech center, was in his third year in SkillsUSA competing in the HVAC competition. For the past two years, he's gone on to the states where he came in second place.

“It's a pretty demanding competition,” May said. “You have to be at the top of your game to do the best you can.”

While May said the district competition is difficult and the challenges at the state level are even more difficult to the point where one mistake can prevent a student from placing. He said competing and having a few days to hang out with his friends is what makes the experience fun. Murphy said SkillsUSA is a way to give students and opportunity to see how they compare with other students across the area. “We're proud to have students representing this school,” she said.

It will be a week before the students know how they will place.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or

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