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Students eye the prize


Area Ed-Tech youths earn spots at national Skills USA competition


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Brad Barnes of Imlay City and Joe Dzieszkowski of Almont are part of a three-man fabrication team that took first in the state Skills USA contest. The team will move on to national competition. photo by Tony Najor.

April 28, 2010
ATTICA — These students aren't yet drawing paychecks but it's obvious they're headed toward success in the workforce.

Eleven Lapeer County Ed-Tech students took first place at Skills USA state competitions this month and ten are headed to Kansas City, Missouri in June for national competition.

Netting some of the most impressive results were welding and machining students from Anthony Najor's class.

Sean Murray, an Imlay City senior, bested 18 others to take first place in overall welding.

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"I was nervous going in but once things got going, I became confident," Murray said who had to complete a written test, an interview and other tasks in addition to displaying his talent in MIG, Stick and TIG welding.

Murray said he was thrilled to win.

The welding fabrication team of Imlay City's Brad Barnes, Almont's Joe Dzieszkowski and Lapeer West's Mark Wells also earned a first place showing at state competition.

The trio had to fabricate a stool in an allotted amount of time and were being judged on their safety practices, teamwork and blueprint reading skills. How did they manage to take the top spot? "We were really focused on what were were doing," said Dzieszkowski.

"We were the last ones done but we made it count," Barnes added.

When they head to national Skills USA competition in June, they'll have to build a barbeque grill.

Welding instructor Anthony Najor said it's a great accomplishment for his four students and the welding program to be headed to nationals.

"These kids love doing what they do and always want to do better," Najor said.

"I say it 'starts at the heart.' It's hard to be successful otherwise."

In addition to passion, the foursome will need to pack endurance when they head to Kansas City. The fabrication team will put in an eight hour day and Murray will be on his feet for at least nine hours—a change of pace from their normal half-day classes.

Najor said he's putting together a strict practice schedule for the finalists. The welding program and others are also preparing to make the trip by hosting fundraisers to cover travel costs. On May 15, the welding class has plans for a bowling fundraiser at Almont Hideaway Lanes.

Najor said they are grateful to the American Welding Society, Detroit section, which donated $1,500 toward travel costs.

Other welding students who placed at states included Tyler Mc Leish (Quest/North Branch) who took second in TIG welding; Kaleb Parsch (Imlay City) who took third in ARC welding and Luke Woolner (Lapeer West) who took third in MIG welding. Robert Smith (welding) took first in a state-only competition.

• • •

Imlay City's Anthony Prothero and Joshua McDonald, a Lapeer East student, took first place in the state in 3-D visualization and animation, a team event. The duo had to create storyboard, develop them into models, add lighting and cameras and set everything into motion, said computer assisted drafting instructor Bill Frederick.

Prothero and McDonald said they'll be tasked with something similar at nationals but they won't know their exact assignment until they arrive.

Prothero said after graduation he's "going to California" where he hopes to go into the game design or movie business some day. McDonald is still trying to decide if animation is in his future.

Prothero also qualified for nationals in game development but chose to compete in the team contest.

• • •

Erik O'Connor of Almont took first place in the state sheet metal contest for building duct work, said heating and air instructor Doug Wright.

"Erik was in the top ten in state competition last year," Wright said.

"From that he gained a lot of experience."

The HVAC class will be selling candy bars to help O'Connor make the trip to nationals.

• • •

Also placing first was Dryden student Juan Quinones Ayala in mobile electronics. Instructor Stu Glenn said that Ayala has opted out of competing at nationals though. He has an opportunity to join his uncle's car audio installation business in Mexico.

"It's great that he already has a job," Glenn said.

"When kids like Juan have an interest, it's pretty easy to teach them."

• • •

Other Ed-Tech students headed to Skills USA national competition include:

• Evan Byrne (homeschool) in computer internetworking;

•Donavan Dudas (North Branch) in collision repair technology and

•Colin Hile (Lapeer East) in commercial baking.

Marina McCullen, coordinator of career services and work-based education, said out of 70 Ed-Tech students that competed in the Michigan Skills USA contest, 33 placed.

Students who placed received a variety of awards including scholarship money, tools, books and other items. Additional scholarship money is up for grabs at the national contest.

Students from the Tri-City area who placed at states included:

•Chris Harris (Almont) took second in computer internetworking;

•Steven Owens (Imlay City) took second in marine service technology;

•Michael Ogg (Dryden) took third in 3-D visualization and animation team event;

•Laura Roberts (Almont) took third in television production and earned gold in the Skills USA leadership test.

Those Ed-Tech students who compete in contests other than Skills USA also earned trips to national events.

•Lapeer County FFA members Chelsea Mikolowski (Almont), Cora Lenneman (Lapeer East), Marissa Powell (East), Mary Listwak (North Branch) and Kaitlyn Brennan (Lapeer Community) took first place in the state in floriculture. The National FFA Convention will be held in October in Indianapolis.

•Jordan Ging, a Lapeer West senior, and Kevin Johnston, of North Branch, qualified for Health Occupations of America national competition.

•Sales and marketing students in Carrie Turner's class traveled to the DECA (Delta Epsilon Chi) national competition in Louisville, Kentucky this month.

The chapter award project team included Clifford Healy (Dryden), Miranda Sanborn ( Lapeer East) and Samantha Thompson (North Branch).

The school-based enterprise team consisted of Amy Kaltz (Dryden), Taryn Rubino (Dryden) and Kourtney Meeker (Almont).

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.
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