SkillsUSA is a program of students, teachers and industries that assist in providing young students necessary skills

Lincoln County High School students Samantha Holak, 2013 graduate, and Craig Roundy, junior, visit Kansas City, Mo., where they compete in a national competition with the top 3 percent of the country’s students. (Courtesy photo)

SkillsUSA is a program of students, teachers and industries that assist in providing young students necessary skills to “ensure America has a skilled workforce,” from their website, skillsusa.org.

More than 300,000 students and teachers are involved annually. Each year, a conference is held, inviting the top 3 percent of America’s students to compete in a national competition. This year, Lincoln County sent students Samantha Holak and Craig Roundy.

The competition lasted from June 23 to 29, at Kansas City, Mo., and saw a wide variety of teens from all over the country. “Each state had their own hotel,” said Holak, and everyone from Nevada rode the same plane there.

The opening night celebration was a grand ceremony, where two Caterpillar tractors held a ribbon between them that they cut to signify the beginning of the competition. Mike Rowe, known from Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” gave a memorable introduction telling the students about preparing for college.

Holak and Roundy were in different categories. Holak was involved in extemporaneous speaking, which involves giving a three- to five-minute speech on a topic they give that day. With no research material, no internet access, and no notes, students are given five minutes to prepare and memorize a speech they give in front of six judges.

Holak’s topic was, “What makes a good leader.” Although she didn’t finish in the top three, she said, “just qualifying to nationals means we’re in the top 3 percent of the nation.” The students were judged on a number of different factors including appearance, smile, organization, relevance, statistical information, confidence and even hygiene.

Roundy was in the related technical math category, and had to endure a two-hour math test full of story problems. He said, “They made it very difficult.” Roundy reported there was algebra, geometry and trigonometry problems on the test.

“The trick is,” he said,” being efficient and keeping up with your time. It averages out to about over two minutes for each problem.”

Although neither of the students placed in the top three winners for their categories, they still had a valuable and fun experience.

Both students noted as their favorite moment was the opening ceremony, and speaking with the SkillsUSA president, Simon Bartley.

The convention center was rather large, equivalent to 16 football fields. Roundy said the hotel was really comfortable, but, “Kansas City is a crazy place,” with, “lots of traffic.” He said they were 20 minutes away from the convention center, but it made it inconvenient if there were traffic jams.

The students worked hard all year to go to the competition. Winning the state-level competition in April qualified them to go to the national convention. Both students noted how much support they received from businesses and individuals throughout the county. Teachers Terry Avery and Matt Cameron run the club for the high school, and were great at organizing fundraisers and the Skills training.

Among the many contributors to their success were the Panaca Market, Lincoln County School Board, Meadow Valley Pharmacy, Shady Motel, Overland Hotel, McCrosky’s Y Service, A&B Service, and many individuals who donated to get these students to Missouri.