CHEYENNE – Central High School’s SkillsUSA team continues to maintain its presence as one of the best chapters in Wyoming and the nation.
SkillsUSA, which focuses on partnering students, teachers and industry leaders to build the future workforce, holds a national competition each year. In order for individual chapters to make it there, they have to impress judges at the state level.
Central’s team did that this year with a service project it completed in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency aimed at helping youth prepare for disasters. The team helped FEMA develop part of an emergency preparedness curriculum for young people to use.
“We have always known that youth are the best agents to change behavior in a household, but COVID-19 was a driver because it limited existing opportunities for high schoolers to get involved in their communities,” said Daniel Norquist, deputy preparedness coordinator with FEMA Region 8, which serves Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, North Dakota and South Dakota.
“We wanted to meet that need we were seeing that was caused by COVID, with the understanding that if (we) can do this right – and get students to help us make this in a way that’s appealing and interesting to them – we’d have a basis of sound preparedness education for students graduating high school that would continue beyond COVID.”
Norquist, whose team reached out to Central’s SkillsUSA team for help with editing the education package so it could best reach young people, said the team did a “fantastic” job.
The resulting course, which Norquist expects FEMA to roll out at a national level next year, will benefit students with varying career goals.
“Skills that are used in emergency management cross a multitude of career paths, whether it’s public health, traditional police, fire or emergency medical services, (or) event planning or business planning,” he said. “All of these are skills high schoolers can learn about in this course that they could apply, regardless of what they pursue as a career.”
The project ranked in the top 24 projects in the country and earned Central’s chapter the Models of Excellence ranking, which focuses on student-led activation and the highest honor the organization gives.
Central students will present their project at the national competition later this summer.
Caden Jackson, president of Central’s SkillsUSA chapter, spearheaded the project and said it was an important teaching moment for the students in the club.
“It helped them adapt to the (requirements) of editing these presentations,” he said. The project also taught students how “to show professionalism and constructive criticism, and (how to show) good work ethic and fast turnaround time for a big project.”
Jackson, a senior, is planning to major in golf management. He said participating in SkillsUSA throughout high school equips students with skills they can use in any workplace setting.
“The number one thing employers say they want are soft skills,” he said. “If you come in with good workplace skills, they won’t mind teaching you the technical skills.”