Success Stories

As with any organization, SkillsUSA measures its success in many ways. But there’s no more powerful gauge for measuring the success of the SkillsUSA mission than to examine the accomplishments of our members, accomplishments that illustrate the positive difference that SkillsUSA involvement can have on a life.

Below you’ll find short synopses of many of these “success stories,” each one taken from the pages of SkillsUSA Champions magazine from 2002 to the present. There are students here from varied backgrounds with varied interests, but one thing binds them together: the positive, often life-changing effect that SkillsUSA has had – and continues to have – on their lives. Click on the “more” link in each piece to be taken to the full article.

  • Ahmad Shawwal

    It’s always the quiet ones who surprise you. Nobody who knew Ahmad Shawwal in elementary or middle school would have imagined the shy immigrant would represent his school…Read More
  • Alan Gomez

    Executive Director Tim Lawrence had just delivered a presentation on SkillsUSA to industry, education and government leaders at a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education conference in Arlington…Read More
  • Alanna Ojibway

    Most of us would be moved by a documentary like “Invisible Children,” about tens of thousands of children who hide in the night to escape being killed or…Read More
  • Alex Abrahantes

    There are so many people out there who are dream stealers,” says Alex Abrahantes. “I’m living proof that — and this is a quote I came up with…Read More
  • Angela Camargo, Meagan Parker and Megan Toms

    Angela Camargo loves doing gel electrophoresis. Huh? “You use a gel, and it has a matrix,” the high-school student begins, “and you put your DNA into a well. The…Read More
  • Anthony Cofield

    Anthony Cofield is a myth-breaker. Has been since the ninth grade. That’s when he abandoned the advanced honors path he was traveling in favor of Calhoun County Technical Center…Read More
  • Ashley Dixon

    Have you ever heard the quote, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog”? I’m going to…Read More
  • Brandon Graham

    “All-around.” If there’s one phrase to describe University of Michigan freshman Brandon Graham, that’s it. Let’s start with the football field. Before graduating from Detroit’s Crockett High School, Graham…Read More
  • Brian Garcia

    Brian Garcia doesn’t mind being labeled an Army brat. He doesn’t mind that he had to switch schools every year until recently, and he’s adapted to his dad…Read More
  • Brittany Velez

    Brittany Velez has already faced more than her fair share of uphill battles, so it’s good that she takes them in stride. Whether it’s an Advanced Placement course workload…Read More
  • Brooke Bibeault

    At the beginning of her senior year of high school, Brooke Bibeault found herself at a crossroads. She was already pretty busy. A student at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational-Technical…Read More
  • Byekwaso Francis

    Byekwaso Lwasa Francis was born to farming peasants in the Ugandan village of Vvumba. The seventh of 10 children, his early childhood was spent in a countryside dotted not…Read More
  • C.J. Wetzler

    Imagine this: A few years from now, you’re sitting comfortably on an airline flight, seat belt buckled and tray table in the upright position. A reassuring voice wafts…Read More
  • Carolyn Kimbrel

    Next time someone says having a good career map isn’t important as early as high school, consider Carolyn Kimbrel. “I’m a walking billboard for career and technical education…Read More
  • Casey Clayton and Amanda Moreno

    Amanda Moreno was in a panic. “You’d think I would’ve been more prepared for a contest called, you know, Prepared Speech,” she laughs now about her first SkillsUSA…Read More
  • Chance Pollo

    Champions inspire us, amaze us and sometimes leave us speechless. In his quest to join TeamUSA at the WorldSkills Competition in the fall of 2007, Chance Pollo had to travel…Read More
  • Charles Young

    Most of my childhood days were spent on the baseball diamond or swimming at a pool. One day, I was at the local water park, swimming in the…Read More
  • Chris Gabler

    Chris Gabler had it all. Having just turned 22, the aspiring firefighter was getting a degree at Los Angeles Valley College. He’d already volunteered for a year-and-a-half at…Read More
  • Christina Rusin

    Christina Rusin knew she’d made it to the big leagues when she noticed then-national security advisor Condoleeza Rice walking up the stairs. But this wasn’t the time to…Read More
  • Colleen Turner

    What do competing in Prepared Speech, becoming an engineer, being the world’s best javelin thrower and playing the trombone have in common? A 5-foot-2, eyes-of-blue junior from Bluestem High…Read More
  • Corey White

    Corey White started playing the guitar when he was just 8 years old. “As soon as I learned my first three chords, I said, ‘OK, I’m ready to…Read More
  • Crystal Pruskowski

    The cosmetology gene runs strong in Crystal Pruskowski's family, but the competition gene seems to skip a generation. Pruskowski's mom is also a cosmetologist and a former SkillsUSA member…Read More
  • Dakota Rostron

    Dakota Rostron grew up watching her grandfather work on cars. “I was always around the smell and the sounds of them,” she says. As a freshman at Princeton (Ind…Read More
  • Daniel Bowman

    It’s not unusual for a teenager to pick up an electric guitar and fantasize about becoming a rock star. What is unusual is when he grabs a guitar…Read More
  • Daniela Duron Garcia

    Daniela Duron Garcia knows how challenges can become opportunities. “It was one month into school ... and I’m already here shaking hands with the president,” the Texas native…Read More
  • Derek Heim

    Ever thought that life is more interesting in school than on any of the popular “reality TV” shows? Student Derek Heim is a survivor of both real worlds. Featured…Read More
  • Diego Carvallo

    “One day, I just cracked and lost it. I did something I’m not proud of,” Diego Carvallo remembers, the pain still in his voice three years later. “I…Read More
  • Doug Ward

    Doug Ward describes his early years in Benton Harbor, Mich., as “well below poverty.” An only child, Ward lost his mother when he was 18 months old, spending…Read More
  • Everett Crosby

    Everett Crosby wanted to make sure he had a job after graduating. But under the wing of an instructor who understood his limited experience, he learned new skills…Read More
  • Gary Stange

    Picture a champion. You don’t see drug addiction, physical abuse or juvenile detention. But for Gary Stange, it’s part of what he’s both seen and overcome on the…Read More
  • Ho Yin Au

    He came to America from Hong Kong when he was only 9, facing an entirely new culture of which he knew nearly nothing. He’s battled through barriers of…Read More
  • Holly and Rickey Groover

    “Business as usual,” says Debra Groover, her voice unmistakably tinged with pride. Her son, 19-year-old Rickey, has just returned from his third SkillsUSA Georgia competition. Three trips, three…Read More
  • Jacob Hudson

    Asked how he sees the world, Jacob Hudson, who is legally blind, says it’s hard to describe. He’s unable to make a comparison, since he’s only seen things…Read More
  • James Calle

    Becoming the youngest person to ever place in the top 10 of a national SkillsUSA competition. Delivering an impassioned speech in front of hundreds of peers. Walking onto…Read More
  • Jessica Escobar

    Mechanical engineering, surveying, community service, family ties to Central America — these are just a few facets of Jessica Escobar. Together, they help define a young woman who…Read More
  • John Hills

    John Hills was a junior at Port Huron (Mich.) Northern High School when he got a little push from his advisor to try something new. “We had a very…Read More
  • John Hoyt

    When SkillsUSA tried out a competition in Welding Art Sculpture last year, most entries had whimsical themes: cowboy boots, a dragonfly, a fisherman or an array of stars…Read More
  • Jon Wilson

    Five years ago, in the unsettling days following 9/11, Jon Wilson stood on the grounds of the Pentagon, staring at the charred rubble. The young Army man had…Read More
  • Jonathan Irizarry

    Jonathan Irizarry made SkillsUSA history on June 27 when he became the first student from Puerto Rico to be elected as a national officer. Being called on stage…Read More
  • Jonathan Reyes

    There’s a tenaciously held myth about career and technical education that CTE students don’t have the same shot at success as those following the traditional academic track. Jonathan…Read More
  • Joseph (A.J.) Taillacq

    Baseball gives you two strikes; one more and you’re out. Facing his own possible third strike, Andrew Joseph (A.J.) Taillacq hit a home run. “I made a promise to…Read More
  • Joshua Brunk

    It’s not every day — or year, actually — that someone meets the requirements for SkillsUSA’s highest individual honor. Joshua Brunk is the latest to be awarded the…Read More
  • Josie Monarch

    Josie Monarch had two requirements for the college she would eventually attend. One of them was that she had to be part of its football program. The Hardinsburg, Ky…Read More
  • Julia Abramova

    “They told me that the day it happened was May Day, like our Labor Day here,” Julia Abramova remembers. “They say we were at a parade and then…Read More
  • Julian Plowden

    Julian Plowden was in trouble. He was in high school, about to end the first semester of his freshman year, and his teacher was almost ready to give…Read More
  • Julissa Antigua, Anthony Tarantino and Samantha Roccapriore

    A balanced-budget proposal that could have slashed state funding for Connecticut’s technical schools didn’t sit well with the students in Meriden. They decided to give legislators their thoughts…Read More
  • Karen Carbajal and Josefina Plata

    Confidence. Compassion. Dedication. It takes all these things to become a medical doctor, but add the right amount of encouragement and opportunity, and Josefina Plata and Karen Carbajal…Read More
  • Karmen Ayres

    At age 7, Karmen Ayres watched helplessly as her active life ground to a halt. “I was so ill that I lost all this weight and basically became nothing…Read More
  • Kate Campbell

    Kate Campbell likes a good challenge. While a student at Presque Isle (Maine) High School, she played ice hockey on the boys’ team. Soccer, softball and swimming dominated other…Read More
  • Katherine Jones

    "If you were to spend a day with Katherine Jones and were not the better for it, you would be one of life’s rare exceptions.” Talk about setting high…Read More
  • Kendra Lisec

    Kendra Lisec doesn’t let fear stop her from trying new things. Take performing. In June, she sang in front of more than 15,000 students, teachers and business partners at…Read More
  • Kevin DiMartino

    For Kevin DiMartino, turning trash into cash isn’t only good for the environment. It’s good for nonprofit organizations, too. A born entrepreneur, DiMartino became a fund-raising “coach” for an…Read More
  • Kevin Sbraga

    Kevin Sbraga could barely speak. “Are you sure?” he managed. Confirmation came — Sbraga’s life had officially changed. He’d won the seventh season of popular reality-TV show “Top…Read More
  • Kevin Waita

    Kevin Waita is fascinated with structure — whether it’s buildings and highways or words and music. Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, Waita attends Tulsa (Okla.) Technology Center’s Lemley Campus and…Read More
  • Kim Cioni and Karyn Hawthorne

    Kim Cioni will not let her students give up. Or her sister, for that matter. She’s in it for the long haul, making sure they stay in the…Read More
  • Kristina Rice

    Kristina Rice, food stylist and chef, not only knows how to make a chicken taste good, she makes it look so good that television viewers open their wallets. Rice…Read More
  • LaManda Slover

    By the time she started her senior year, LaManda Slover was already a newly-wed. She’d left her family in Cleveland, Okla. (“I’d say Hallett, but that isn’t even…Read More
  • Larrisa Brown, Kaitlyn Duarte and Rachel Kagan

    Salmon or hydropower? Both are critical to the Washington state economy, but gains for one industry often mean losses to the other. The steps of three high-school students…Read More
  • Leah Rife

    Inspiration can come from the strangest places. But dogs … in space? That’s where young entrepreneur Leah Rife found the idea for a logo to sell her hand-painted…Read More
  • Madelyn Vallejo

    Since she was 5, Madelyn Vallejo has known what she wanted to do with her life. “Some people want to be scientists or doctors. I want to be…Read More
  • Marc Case

    The written word starts with images and characters being shared, understood and repeated. These evolve into alphabets and words. Words become written language. With written language comes literacy…Read More
  • Matthew Barthel

    In an instant, we are connected … by email, cell phone, radio and camera. In an instant, we are communicating … through electronic systems that would have boggled the…Read More
  • Max Aronson and Dante Foggy

    Your assignment: Create a delicious dessert that would even impress three celebrity chefs. Start with frozen mocha cappuccino. Check. Add a few jelly doughnuts. Sounds good. Throw in…Read More
  • Max Waterhouse

    Most children say “good night” to their parents face to face, and the word is whispered back with the implied promise of tomorrow. Children in an orphanage dream…Read More
  • Megan Polson

    For Megan Polson, empathy is a mighty motivator. “I know how it feels to be out on the streets with nothing, and then all of a sudden all these…Read More
  • Melanie Stansbury

    Melanie Stansbury has traveled the world, digging deep into the corners of human culture and development. The more she sees, the more she wants to learn. And, the…Read More
  • Melissa Cracknell and Emerson Curtis

    One wants to help people. The other escaped a fire in her home. Both took on grueling training to become firefighters, a dangerous career requiring a quick mind…Read More
  • Miles George

    Most people pursuing a career have a goals list centered around expanding their skill set, making industry connections and getting their work recognized. Miles George has that list…Read More
  • Neal Foster

    Neal Foster says if you’re willing to put in the work, you can accomplish anything you want. After his first attempt in 2013, Foster’s work led to a…Read More
  • Nick Daddona

    Nick Daddona grew up angry. Though he knew his adoptive parents loved him, Daddona felt rejected by the woman who had given him up for adoption. “I was born…Read More
  • Nick Peterson

    Sometimes it takes a competitive nature to make it to the top. But for Nick Peterson, it was just a matter of being the best he could be. As…Read More
  • Noemi Castro

    From living in a car to making her living working on cars. From a quiet student with poor English skills to a confident student leader delivering speeches at…Read More
  • Paloma Limas

    Paloma Limas started dancing before she was born. “My mom told me that whenever the music came on, [as a little girl] I was dancing around the house. Even…Read More
  • Pedro Moreno

    “It’s hard to keep trying when it looks like your family will never live a normal life.” That’s how Pedro Moreno says he felt, struggling with school and…Read More
  • Phillip Marzocco Jr.

    Thousands in developing countries have no access to education. Without it, they can do little to change the socioeconomic status of their impoverished lands. Phillip Marzocco Jr. wants…Read More
  • Priscilla Creswell

    All Priscilla Creswell wanted was to focus on a career, even if it meant leaving her familiar high school. Even though her academic counselors advised against it, Creswell…Read More
  • Rick Peterson

    Take the lure of the open road, add the drive to be a leader and mix in ethics of steel, and you’ve got the career of Rick Peterson. Peterson…Read More
  • Ricky Jordan

    Camden, N.J., has been ranked as the most dangerous city in the United States. I lived there for 12 years. Each time I went outside could have been…Read More
  • Robert Figueroa

    Robert Figueroa grew up surrounded by gangs. He and his twin brother became involved by proximity. “It’s not that I chose that life,” explains the resident of Florida’s Gulf…Read More
  • Rod McCurdy

    The mission: Build a reed ship and sail it 12,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean. Rod McCurdy, SkillsUSA’s national high school president in 1989-90, temporarily left his position…Read More
  • Sarah McCready

    For Sarah McCready, who’s currently deployed aboard a U.S. Navy vessel, being a sailor is in her blood. Being a team player is key to her survival. “Without teamwork…Read More
  • Scottie Burchett

    Scottie Burchett has been called a true success story for SkillsUSA, and with good reason. Her track record spans 30 years, including time spent both as a student…Read More
  • Shreela McFaddan

    Shreela McFaddan first picked up a hammer when she was 3 years old. Her family was helping to build a cabin for her grandparents. The little girl just…Read More
  • Stanley “Stosh” Morency

    When Stanley Morency was 5, his mother gave him her clothes dryer. He laughs when he tells the story. “She’s probably the one who got me interested in electronics…Read More
  • Stella Elder and Joel Chan

    Ask Stella Elder and Joel Chan what’s new, then get comfortable. You’ll be listening to this mother and son for more than a couple of minutes. Since 2003, the…Read More
  • Stephanie Usry

    Stephanie Usry didn’t get elected president of the Central High student body by standing on the sidelines. She didn’t become SkillsUSA’s national high school president by hanging around…Read More
  • Suzanne Raposo

    When Suzanne Raposo started kindergarten, she couldn’t speak English, and her teachers couldn’t speak Portuguese. She remembers her teacher asking her to take out a pencil and not…Read More
  • Tawanda Campbell, Debra Hancock, Diana Lopez, Margaret Mosher, Teresa Slack, Sandy Uffelman

    After losing four different jobs due to the economic downturn in Florida, single mother Debra Hancock decided it was time to do something to make herself more marketable…Read More
  • Tony Hamblin

    The U.S. Army taught Tony Hamblin more than one set of skills. But after nearly 21 years of service, he was ready to leave the military and give…Read More
  • Tyler Brown

    Tyler Brown is interested in all things aviation, especially avionics. “I like aviation, I like electronics. Why not do both?” he explains. The SkillsUSA champion in Aviation Maintenance Technology…Read More
  • Vanessa Sandoval

    What’s your idea of perfect presidential material? A proven leader, from a large state like Texas, perhaps? Or maybe a candidate who’s tall, athletic and charismatic? How about…Read More
  • Victoria Slagle and Tanner Hicks

    Step-siblings since kindergarten, Victoria Slagle and Tanner Hicks have always been raised as twins. It’s fitting, then, that their achievements in SkillsUSA have been similarly impressive. Hicks, a 2009…Read More
  • Virginia Mata

    Wonder Woman. Supergirl. Virginia Mata. The last of these may look out of place, but what else besides superpowers can explain how this petite young woman keeps doing…Read More
  • Zachary Ferguson

    Soon after being elected a SkillsUSA national officer, Zachary Ferguson was asked about the benefits this new experience might bring. “SkillsUSA is building me up to become what…Read More