DALLAS – Nine very talented Dallas College students traveled to the SkillsUSA National Leadership & Skills Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, June 20-24. They competed with 5,200 other students in a wide range of skill areas. Two Dallas College students, Robert McKibben and Juan Rey, took home silver medals, placing second nationally.
A national association, SkillsUSA is focused on ensuring America has a skilled future workforce. The organization serves more than 340,000 students and instructors in middle and high schools, as well as colleges and postsecondary institutions from every state and territory of the U.S. Programming covers 130 trade, technical and skilled service occupations.
“Participating in SkillsUSA can change a student’s mindset and career trajectory. In addition to their trade and technical skills, students learn about personal and workplace skills, such as responsibility, work ethic, teamwork, and much more,” said Noeli Piccoli-Biggs, senior manager for special academic programs at Dallas College. “I encourage faculty from all Dallas College programs to transform students’ lives by preparing them to compete at the 2023 SkillsUSA State and National Leadership & Skills contests.”
Dallas College faculty member Latesia Moreno participated in SkillsUSA for the first time this year. “The SkillsUSA experience has been an adventure beyond my wildest dreams. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I decided to have our Engine Technology Motorcycle and Small Engine programs participate,” said Moreno. “This experience has definitely made a lasting impact on both a personal and professional level for myself and my students.”
Each of the Dallas College students who traveled to Atlanta had won gold medals (first place) in the April SkillsUSA State Leadership & Skills Conference in Houston. Representing Dallas College at the 2022 SkillsUSA Championships, listed with their competition categories and primary campuses, were:
- Jose Corona (Culinary Arts, El Centro)
- Zairene Cruz (Extemporaneous Speaking, El Centro)
- Anton Grindl (Cabinet Making, Cedar Valley)
- Trevor Heitz (Motorcycle Service Technology, Cedar Valley)
- Christopher McCallum (Automotive Service Technology, Cedar Valley)
- Robert McKibben (Masonry, North Lake)
- Juan Rey (Restaurant Service, El Centro)
- Sian Thomas (Commercial Banking and Job Interview, El Centro)
- Omar Vazquez (Power Equipment Technology, Cedar Valley)
Rey is currently taking his final classes at Dallas College El Centro Campus to earn his AAS in Culinary Arts. He competed in the Restaurant Service category, encompassing the fine dining “front of the house” customer experience (table set-up, menu, drinks and guest service). “A lot of people believe culinary arts is only cooking, but it’s a lot more than that,” he said.
Rey first competed in SkillsUSA last year, earning a gold medal in a virtual competition. His instructor, Sheila Hyde, had invited him to participate. Competing live was completely different, he said. “I never imagined the size of the competition; it is huge!”
The best part was sharing the experience with others, he said. “I enjoyed being supportive and feeling the support from my classmates and advisors. I also met a lot of people and made good friends from other states.”
For the past 20 years, Rey has worked in hospitality service and currently manages a Dallas night club. Once he completes his degree, he hopes to become a restaurant consultant, helping restaurant start-ups to calculate operating costs and profitability.
While McKibben brought home a silver medal in masonry this year, he won gold last year. He began studying masonry in August 2020, under the instruction of Lawrence Johnson at Dallas College’s Coppell Center. In the national competition, McKibben and 13 other competing masons had six hours to build a double wall, according to a specified plan.
McKibben is a teacher at the high school level and plans to continue taking a couple of classes at a time at Dallas College and eventually work toward a degree.
His favorite part of the competition was meeting people. Each state has its own pin, which competitors swap and collect. “I met people from every state,” he said, collecting 50 pins.
As a busy father of four, full-time teacher, and part-time student, McKibben said that SkillsUSA was well worth the time commitment because of the things you learn and the people you meet.
“The SkillsUSA program at Dallas College is such a transforming experience for students, helping them to become more poised and confident in their trades and connecting them to employers. We look forward to bringing an even larger group of faculty and students to the state and national competitions next year,” said Dr. Maria Boccalandro, Dallas College dean of special academic programs. “I’d like to thank Dr. Greg Morris, senior vice provost of academic services, who has been so supportive of the program and is as proud as I am of our participating students.”
Visit the Dallas College SkillsUSA webpage for more information about this program.
About Dallas College
Dallas College, formerly the Dallas County Community College District, was founded in 1965, and consists of seven campuses: Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, Eastfield, El Centro, Mountain View, North Lake and Richland. Dallas College offers online learning and serves more than 125,000 credit and continuing education students annually. Dallas College also offers dual credit for students in partner high schools and early college high schools throughout Dallas County. Students benefit from partnerships with local business leaders, school districts and four-year universities, and Dallas College offers associate degree and career/technical certificate programs in more than 100 areas of study, as well as a bachelor’s degree in education. Based on annual enrollment, it is the largest community college in Texas.