SkillsUSA students honing crafts to prepare for competition


Skills USA members – Courtesy of Mrs. Sims

Alexandra Vazquez-Gutierrez, Staff Reporter

Each year, Sandburg’s SkillsUSA heads down to Peoria Illinois for the state competitions, with over 100 competitive events to offer in the field of Career and Technical Education, in hopes of both excelling in their competitions and enjoying their time there. 

Mrs. Sims, a teacher at Sandburg for the past 18 years, is now in her tenth year of sponsoring SkillsUSA. The meetings for this club occur about once a month and preparation for the event is done mostly outside of school hours, making it very flexible and what many students might call a “low commitment club.” During COVID, the club had to take a pause and had an online event in April of 2020. Last year, however, they were able to return and participate in-person once again. 

Mrs. Sims describes this event as a unique opportunity that offers career preparation in technical education. She explains how the club leaves school on a Thursday morning in April for a bus ride of just over two hours to Peoria where the competitions take place. On this night, there is an opening ceremony that may include guest speakers who speak not only of the competitions, but also about the need for workers in the field and what jobs have to offer. After this, teachers and students across the state head to their hotel rooms and anxiously await the coming days which are full of both curiosity and thrill. 

All Friday long, there are competitions throughout the Peoria Civic Center with people competing in varying events, including everything from fashion design to working on semi-trucks. When students are not actively participating in competitions, they can walk around and spectate the other events.

The final day of the SkillsUSA competition includes an awards ceremony on Saturday morning which congratulates the top three winners of each competition with medals and, for some students, various scholarships. 

Sandburg sophomore Sai Caliskan was able to go to Peoria last spring and is preparing to go back this year. He shares that “the hotel was beautiful and there were a couple of good facilities.” Besides the superficial appeal of the event, he says that it was “a very fun time, and a comfortable yet competitive environment.” 

SkillsUSA is not the average club; with few meetings and a big occasion to look forward to, it allows students to do more than just improve in their content area. When asked what he gained from their experience in SkillsUSA, Sai Caliskan said “I have also learned life lessons such as be more confident in your abilities and don’t be afraid to compete with others.

Additionally, Mrs. Sims says that her favorite thing about it is “watching the confidence in kids when they go and they compete,” explaining that it creates a “sense of accomplishment when they’re done and they’ve completed the project that they’ve worked so hard to prepare for.” Students in this club are not only able to improve and showcase their skills but also acquire a “sense of pride and confidence,” as Mrs. Sims calls it.

This year, Sandburg’s SkillsUSA group will be heading to Peoria on April 27, with high expectations and plans to fulfill them. Make sure to support those you know, and perhaps even start preparing if you’re considering joining next year’s group.

As Mrs. Sims says, “there’s something for everyone and to develop a skill on it, so I say, try it. It’s an experience like none other.”