Clark students score success at SkillsUSA


Yeranui Paronikyan

All of Clark’s SkillsUSA contestants pose for a group photo after the awards ceremony on the final day of the trip.

From April 21 to April 24 this year, SkillsUSA held its fifty-fifth annual state conference and competition. Over two thousand students from middle school to postsecondary education from all over California competed over the course of the four days. Around twenty Clark students from Environmental GIS, Design, Cinema, and Photography classes participated in rigorous competitions in Ontario, California to earn our school medals in all but one category they competed in.

SkillsUSA is a non-profit organization focused on career and technical education for prospective members of the workforce. Their mission is to establish tenets and frameworks to promote professionalism, job-appropriate skill sets, and industry information for students entering the workforce. While they do not demonstrate or provide instruction on a school-to-school basis, the competition standards they provide are meant to simulate the challenges of an actual work environment.

In order to move on to the state competition in Ontario, all participants had to win their respective contests at the regional level. Clark has competed in several SkillsUSA events in the past, reaching at least the state level every time. 

Each participating class could only select a certain number of students for their contest teams, with photography and design being the smallest groups at between one and five students. The regional contests took place at the start of this year with the same teams, and each class was preparing for several months before the state competitions.

The design team spent many enrichment periods working together to prepare for the competition. Sophomore Samantha Talbot was Clark’s gold medal winner for Introduction to Advertising Design which she accredits in part to those prep sessions. “We looked at student examples of competition entries which definitely helped a lot,” Talbot said. Despite her expectations, Talbot actually found the event to be mostly relaxed, informative, and even fun.

The regional competitions varied quite a bit from the state competitions, primarily because they were conducted online versus in person. Senior Yolanda Barkhordarian ended up placing silver in regular Advertising Design among several dozen contestants. 

“The state competition was not as challenging for me as I was prepared for it,” Barkhordarian said. “The state competition was more of a learning experience not only because it was in person, but also because we were able to talk to and get feedback from the judges.” Though she didn’t enjoy the more lengthy parts of the event like the opening and closing ceremonies, Barkhordarian loved having the opportunity to learn from her peers and competitors.

The cinema classes competed in several classes, making up the largest group of students in attendance. They were split up into several teams for their contests, all of which were cinema-related but differing in final product. 

One of their competitions, Broadcast News Production, required making a fake news segment with certain elements included. “Our team had to pull all-nighters,” junior Max Allen said. “We prepared the most out of any team in Cinematography as we had to record our video prior to going to SkillsUSA.” All editing, formatting, and final touches had to be done at the hotel before turning in the video. 

The smallest class in attendance, Photography, was represented by senior Yervand Matevosian. While most other Clark students prepared for their contests with their class, Matevosian did much of his practice on his own. His senior project was also focused on photography, and over the course of this school year, he was the photographer for fifteen different weddings.

Matevosian feels the contest was exactly as difficult as he’d anticipated. “I pulled two all-nighters back to back and burned through over 300 gigabytes of storage in photographs,” Matevosian said. Aside from a medal, Matevosian feels he also gained a lot from the event in terms of experience and resources. “It gave me a plethora of people to network with,” Matevosian said. “I finally had the chance to show in competition just how much I love photography.”

Junior Alexandra Narinyan was another member of the design team. Overall, she was very excited to travel for the competition. While some parts of the trip itself like the bus rides and schedule were rocky, she made a lot of memories there. “One of my favorite moments of the trip was when we all went out to eat together,” Narinyan said. “We all came together and had a good time.”

Ms. Evans-Bye’s Environmental GIS students made up the largest group of competitors, competing in several differe ntcompetitions and placing in all of them. Seniors Gabriella Marcucci, Matthew Keshishian, and Daniel Bet Sarghez placed gold in their Industrial and Engineering Technology Cluster competition, which means that the three of them will be moving onto nationals in the summer.

“I was expecting to place but I wasn’t expecting to win gold,” Marcucci said. “It wasn’t until after the presentation and when we made our judge cry that I knew we’d win gold.” Marcucci looks forward to competing in nationals, though she’s a bit nervous about the competition. “These are people who also won gold in their own states, and so their project is gold medal level work.”

Many of this year’s competitors were seniors, which means that they won’t be competing for Clark again. Still, SkillsUSA proved to be a unique opportunity for the students that participated. “The trip was a great opportunity for us to go out and really revel in the work we’d done and celebrate our achievements,” Marcucci said.