Five Ramona High School automotive students—all state champions—represented Ramona in the SkillsUSA National Championships, an annual showcase for the best career and technical students in the nation. Three placed in the top 10 in the nation.
The multi-million dollar event is staged in a venue that has space equivalent to 16 football fields in Kansas City, Mo. More than 5,400 contestants competed in 91 separate events from June 12 to 26. Participating students begin at local contests and advance through state championships to the national level.
To qualify for the championships, students had to be state champions in their events.
Kris Smith, first in the state in automotive service technology, finished third in the nation.
Rebecca Nolin, the first female student to qualify as state champion in high school motorcycle service technology, took fifth in the nation.
Jose Castro, first in the state in automotive refinishing technology (painting), placed seventh in the nation.
Daniel Currie, tops in post secondary motorcycle technology in the state, and Mike Morgan, first in the state in Customer Service, finished 16 in their events in the national competition.
RHS instructors Robert Grace and Mickey Nielsen accompanied the students.
“Three RHS automotive students finishing in the top 10 in the nation and two in the top five is an awesome accomplishment,” stated Grace.
All of the contestants brought home shirts, hog banks and tools as gifts from the sponsors.
Smith brought home more. He won a $25,000 scholarship and $15,000 in tools.
Nolin enjoyed being the only young woman in the competition.
“It was fun,” she said. “They gave me a Magic Eight Ball at the end of the competition. It was for being cocky, confident and enthusiastic. It was great to see how much I had learned and how well I could put that knowledge to use. The best part of the experience was I met a lot of new friends.”
“The facilities were top class,” said Grace. “The instructors could view the students in the customized painting booth on live television. Harley Davidson and Caterpillar provided top-notch equipment. The judges were excellent.
“We went into the competition a little cold in some events. We knew about what to expect in the automotive technology competition but we didn’t know exactly what to expect in the other competitions.”
Grace said he and Nielsen took notes and will know more about what to expect next year.
“The students had outstanding experiences and represented RHS and our community very well,” he said.
With the help of the community, the automotive students and teachers raised money to compete at the Nationals, as participants refer to the competition.
“I would like to thank all of those who helped the students in the fund raising events and especially NAPA,” said Grace. “NAPA donated $1000 for food and expenses for all of the contestants.”
The philosophy of the SkillsUSA championships is to reward students for excellence, to involve industry in directly evaluating student performance and to keep training relevant to employers’ needs.