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YUHSD CTE Ambassadors attend SkillsUSA leadership training on Capitol Hill

WLTI students in front of capitolA delegation of 99 Yuma Union High School District Career & Technical Education (CTE) students traveled to Washington, D.C. from Sept. 18-22, 2021 for the annual SkillsUSA Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI).

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 330 students representing 18 states took part in activities that included congressional visits, monument tours, laying wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and a visit to the National Leadership Center.

“WLTI provides our students with the best opportunities to apply their knowledge of professional and communication skills during their congressional visits and the laying of the wreath at Arlington National Cemetery,” Yuma High School CTE Instructional Leader Tamara Kay said.

While YUHSD students have made the trip each year for more than a decade, this is the first year they have attended since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to YUHSD CTE Executive Director Lorie Honeycutt, safety measures and strict protocols helped make the 2021 event possible.

“Safety changed some of our plans this year, but it was still an excellent experience for the students,” Honeycutt said. “Our meetings with the senators and representatives had to be virtual, but since Arizona had the most students, we used the ballroom and the new state director did a great job making the virtual experience work. One student was chosen to represent each school and a second student from each school got to ask the congressional leaders a question. I was extremely proud of our students’ commentaries and their questions. They did a stellar job. Even the national staff commented on how well spoken our students were.”

Congressional visits are an important part of WLTI. 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. Students explained that today’s workplace requires people to participate in high-quality training systems. SkillsUSA has been successful in developing these skills in students of all ages and backgrounds.

WLTI students working around a table"The SkillsUSA WLTI was very educational and fun,” Gila Ridge High School student Reid Sommer said. “I learned about communication and saw many amazing monuments in D.C. I would definitely go again and invite others to become a part of [their CTE class Career and Technical Student Organization]."

Kofa High School student Samantha Dahin added: "My experience at the WLTI conference last week was of immeasurable value. Speaking before members of the House of Representatives was an opportunity of a lifetime and gave me an invigorating sense of confidence. I was able to share my Framework Story describing my experience with SkillsUSA which empowered me to implement a more active role in SkillsUSA and advanced my public speaking skills."

SkillsUSA is one of the nation's largest individual membership organizations for career and technical students and its programs are integrated into the CTE curriculum. Students who complete a CTE program in YUHSD have a 100 percent graduation rate.

“The opportunity to chaperone students to WLTI was a blessing," Gila Ridge Education Professions Teacher Tricia Ellsworth sadi. "Giving students the chance to travel, interact with other SkillsUSA leaders from across the country, and visit landmarks and museums in Washington DC is once in a lifetime for these students. My students were very grateful for this leadership experience.”

A video recap of the event is available here: https://youtu.be/CVySNJlc_r8

About SkillsUSA

SkillsUSA is a nonprofit partnership of education and industry founded in 1965 to strengthen our nation’s skilled workforce. Driven by employer demand, SkillsUSA helps students develop necessary personal and workplace skills along with technical skills grounded in academics. This SkillsUSA Framework empowers every student to succeed at work and in life, while helping to close the “skills gap” in which millions of positions go unfilled. Through SkillsUSA’s championships program and curricula, employers have long ensured schools are teaching relevant technical skills, and with SkillsUSA’s new credentialing process, they can now assess how ready potential employees are for the job. SkillsUSA has more than 360,000 annual members nationwide in high schools, colleges and middle schools, covering over 130 trade, technical and skilled service occupations, and is recognized by the U.S. departments of Education and Labor as integral to career and technical education. For more information: www.skillsusa.org

Eric Patten
epatten@yumaunion.org