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Darby High School students heading to national SkillsUSA competition

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Darby High School students are heading to the National SkillsUSA competition after placing at the state conference in Helena with the theme “United As One.”

DHS Chapter advisors are Mikey Meves, shop teacher, and Courtney Bennett, career specialist.

“We’re pretty excited,” Bennett said. “The kids did so great.”

DHS Principal Christopher Mothorn said is it a worthy program for Darby.

“SkillsUSA is a great opportunity for our students to compete with other students in real-world skills that will help them in the job market and life,” Mothorn said. “This is our first year participating in the program and our students are excited to see the program grow next year and in the future. We are excited to be sending students to compete at the national competition in Atlanta this June”

DHS formed the SkillsUSA chapter last fall, but Montana has had the program for over 30 years.

Nationwide, SkillsUSA was formed in 1965. Each year it involves more than 333,527 students and instructors as it serves students from middle school through college who are preparing for over 130 careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. According to the national website, “SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.”

Bennett said SkillsUSA is a student organization similar to FFA but rather than centering on agriculture the club focuses on job skills, technical skills and leadership skills.

“We work on job interviewing, professionalism, networking and students can compete in anything that is professional and trade-based,” Bennett said. “It is so new. I don’t think any other school in the valley has it. It was a huge learning experience for us.”

The 20-member club met at DHS all year and 13 students competed in three days of state competition in April. Nearly 300 Montana students from 48 chapters competed in skills like architectural drafting, automotive, cabinet making, milling, welding and woodworking.  

Seven DHS students qualified to go to nationals in Atlanta, Georgia, in June to compete against the rest of the country.

DHS Senior Andrew Robbins placed first for CNC milling and his trip to the national competition is being sponsored by King Machine, a CNC manufacturing company. It is about a $3,000 sponsorship. DHS sophomore Abby Converse placed first for her prepared speech on how welding is going to help her be a better doctor. She was also voted to be a state officer for next year. Five DHS students, junior Talon Bumgardner, sophomores Ty Bumgardner and Emma Luedecke, and freshmen Braydon Lundgren and Damien Sanmann, competed in the Quiz Bowl competition.

“Quiz bowl is a competition showcasing their intelligence and hard work in a trivia question competition,” Bennett said. “These students competed in a trivia-style game against 14 teams and won four rounds before losing the championship round by one point.”

The Darby Quiz Bowl team earned second in the state, but the first place team was unable to go to nationals, so the Darby team will compete at nationals.

The prizes for winning at the Montana competition included a tuition-free semester at Helena College for winning first place.

Bennett said SkillsUSA is sharing the information about career and technical education (CTE), two-year programs, journeyman programs and other options for advanced training.

"I am so proud of how far our students went this year in their competitions and I am excited to see how they do in nationals,” Bennett said. “We’re hoping to grow the program next year and have more girls participate.”

DHS SkillsUSA Chapter is gathering funds to attend the national competition but there is not much time as the school year is ending.  

“The cost is very high with airline and hotel prices skyrocketing,” Bennett said. “We are trying to raise $3,000 per person with a goal of $20,000 total. If companies would donate even a little bit towards this amazing opportunity for Darby students, we would greatly appreciate it. Your donations are tax-deductible, and we will provide a receipt from the school.”

Checks should be made out to Darby School District #9 with DHS SkillsUSA in the memo line. Mail donations to 209 School Dr., Darby, MT 59829. For more information visit SkillsUSA National website: https://www.skillsusa.org/about/

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