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YUHSD CTE Ambassadors attend SkillsUSA leadership training on Capitol Hill

A delegation of 99 Career & Technical Education (CTE) students from Yuma Union High School District met with Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and nine representatives on Sept. 25, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

The visit was part of SkillsUSA's Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI). The delegation also paid respects at the Tomb of the Unknowns. All five comprehensive high schools in YUHSD sent members of various Career & Technical Student Organizations.

“My time during the Washington Leadership Training Institute is definitely something that I will never forget,” said Gila Ridge High School student Andrew Bilky, who finished second at SkillsUSA nationals in impromptu speaking over the summer. “Not only was I able to learn about professionalism, and the values of good work, but I also got to learn a lot about myself and meet some amazing people. From the big things like meeting, speaking to, and shaking hands with one of my state representatives, to the small things like meeting all of the other people from different states and different schools in my own state, I feel have changed me for the rest of my life. The thing that affected me the most was the changing of the guard ceremony, and the wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was such an amazing display of respect and honor that I will never forget.”

The five-day WLTI is sponsored each year by SkillsUSA to provide students an opportunity to learn about Washington D.C.; how to effectively communicate with their legislative representatives; and about personal, workplace and technical skills grounded in academics. This year's delegations discussed the value of public career and technical education to their respective states; the quality of their education and training; their occupational plans; and, the benefits of their participation in SkillsUSA. They explained that today's workplace requires people with to participate in high-quality systems. SkillsUSA has been successful in developing these skills in students of all ages and backgrounds.

“Beyond the training that they receive, the trip really helped students gain a broader understanding of the impact they can have on their community,” YUHSD CTE Director Lorie Honeycutt said. “It crosses boundaries and demographics. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, you are able to make a difference.”

The group left Yuma on Thursday, Sept. 20 and returned on Sept. 26. Overall, WLTI concentrates on advanced leadership and communications skills, including giving students an opportunity to share their personal stories with legislative representatives with a theme of “Take it Home,” meaning that students were encouraged, as Honeycutt mentioned, to adopt what they learn and apply it to their home community.

This year, more than 500 students and instructors from 27 states attended the leadership conference. The group from YUHSD was the largest sent in the district’s history. There were more 130 students from the state of Arizona in attendance, 76 percent of which were from a YUHSD school.

SkillsUSA is an integral part of public career and technical education and CTE is learning that works for America. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 90.18 percent compared to an average national freshman graduation rate of 80 percent. CTE is also about jobs that are essential for the American economy and global competitiveness. One-third will require an associate's degree or certificate and nearly all will require real-world skills that can be mastered through CTE.

Eric Patten
epatten@yumaunion.org