SkillsUSA Elects TA Grad, 3 MTC Students Medal

DATE: July 2, 2017

HARRISONBURG — Three Massanutten Technical Center students received medals in the 2017 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, and a recent Turner Ashby High School graduate was named to one of the organization's highest offices.
Brad Ridder, 18, was elected by a group of more than 13,000 students to be SkillsUSA's college/postsecondary vice president. The 53rd conference ran from June 19 through June 23 in Louisville, Ky.

Ridder, who attended MTC and graduated from TA this spring, is the first student from Rockingham County Public Schools to be elected to a Skills-USA officer position. He and 14 other high school and college-aged officers will spend the next year helping the organization's board of directors make decisions that affect all SkillsUSA participants.

"He'll help set its goals, like where it's going to go," said Buddy Ritchie, SkillsUSA adviser for RCPS. "He'll also speak with legislators at the White House to promote career and technical education."

Ridder, a state SkillsUSA officer for the last two years, also completed a written test administered by SkillsUSA staff to ensure that he was qualified to run for national office, then ran a campaign during the weeklong conference, Ritchie said.

Three MTC students also came away with top honors during the week's skills competition, including MTC and Turner Ashby student Courtlend Knight, 17. Knight earned a national first-place ranking in the first aid/CPR competition.

Decklyn Powell, 17, of Spotswood High finished fifth in the firefighting contest, and Triplett Tech student, Elijah Williams of Mount Jackson, placed second in the masonry competition.

Knight and Powell competed as part of SkillsUSA's fire and rescue program, Ritchie said. Other programs included building maintenance, entrepreneurship and advertising.

"Each contest reinforces the requirements of each career field," Ritchie said.

Each competition consists of a written exam and performance assessment, Ritchie said. National competitors had to pass school, district and statewide contests to qualify for the Louisville conference.

Knight, a volunteer firefighter at the Clover Hill Volunteer Fire Company, went beyond the call of duty to prepare for the national contest, according to MTC Director Kevin Hutton.

"Courtlend went out and did additional training to be an instructor so that he would have more knowledge and experience to apply to SkillsUSA," Hutton said.

Powell is a volunteer for the Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department. His mother, Lt. Jolene Powell, a training officer for Rockingham County Fire and Rescue, trained him and Knight for the national contest.

Powell praised Knight and Decklyn's determination in mastering their trade.

"[Decklyn] is motivated and this is what he wants to do," she said.

Hutton praised the efforts of all three winners, and expressed confidence in Ridder's leadership abilities.

"He's an outstanding student," he said. "He has charisma and persistence and work ethic. This is a great day for MTC."


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