THATCHER — On Apr. 16, after weeks of preparation, high school students from all over Arizona had the opportunity to demonstrate their vocational and technical proficiencies at Eastern Arizona College’s 36th annual Skills Day.
A total of 443 students, from 23 schools, participated in the event, competing in 48 individual contests, which ranged from foreign language poetry recitation to woodworking to business ethics.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to compete and exhibit their talent,” said EAC Job Placement and Occupational Advising Supervisor — and one of the coordinators for Skills Day — Gayrene Claridge. “They can showcase the various skills they learned in their high school career and technical education classes.”
In preparation for the event, Claridge and her team invited 53 Arizona schools to participate in one or more of the vocation-based competitions, including allied health, art, graphic design, automotive technology, business skills, CAD/drafting, chemistry, computers, languages (French and Spanish), Welding, Machine Shop and large and small woodworking.
Media communications, sports studies and electrical and instrumentation departments held open houses to inform students about career opportunities. Army National Guard servicemen also provided information about its program, enticing students with its popular rock-climbing wall.
Thanks in part to automotive technology instructor Brian Coppola, the tradition of a Skills Day car show was upheld, with six classic-car owners traveling from Globe to spotlight their automotive expertise. Students interested in automotive technology competed in teams of three to complete the tasks of a pit crew, including tire rotation and oil change. C.J. Mattice, Steven McBride and Justin Stradling, of Thatcher High School, had the fastest time in this category.
Thatcher students also took first place in Multimedia presentation (Jaiden Barney and Bailey Hendricks), Spanish language skit (Jaiden Barney and Morgan Mitchell), Art Exhibition (Ben Jarvis and Tiana Roebuck), Economics (Emmi Yla-Pynnonen) and Business Calculations (Emmi Yla-Pynnonen).
Safford High School students placed first in Promotional Marketing (Ryan Karnes and Katy Kempton), First Aid and CPR (Tyanne Martindell) and Art Exhibition (Anastasia Seaman).
Pima students won first place for Large Woodworking (Nathan Weech), Oxy-Acetylene Welding (Tanner Johnson) and Art Exhibition (Marley Grant).
Fort Thomas students took home the following first place awards: Art Exhibition (Cristen Cassadore and Bryan Kitchevan), Business Ethics (Kendra McCabe) and Small Woodworking (Karena Perez and Savannah Talgo).
The Skills Day Art Exhibition was divided into five sub-categories — photography, painting, sculpture, drawing and ceramics and according to Southeastern Arizona Art Guild board member and co-judge for the Art Exhibition Maggie Bryce, this year was exceptionally impressive.
“This is definitely the best show we’ve had,” Bryce said. “The sheer volume (of participants), for one thing, is pretty impressive; we had over 70 art entries this year. And the quality has been really incredible.”
After all the competitions had been settled, awards in each division were given out during lunch — also provided by EAC — and each student was presented with a commemorative t-shirt. Event coordinators, chaperones and students posed on the lawn behind the Activities Center afterward for a historic photograph before traveling back to their respective hometowns.
Follow reporter Krista Olmstead on Twitter @KristaEACourier.