LOUISVILLE, KY – Richard Chrisman admits he was a nervous wreck.

“I was just sitting there shaking after a while. We had equipment problems. We had rule change problems.” But now the information technology (IT) instructor at Northeast Community College can sit back and reflect on the outstanding finish of five of his students and others who competed in the 55th National Leadership and Skills Conference sponsored by SkillsUSA, in Louisville, KY recently. They were among 6,400 high school and college students from across the U.S. competing in 103 different trade, technical and leadership fields.

“Our students were really able to adapt and take things in stride. To finish first and second in the nation is pretty good,” he said.

That pretty good finish includes one gold and two silver medals, plus an additional 14 Northeast students who finished in the top 10 nationally including two former O’Neill Public High Schools graduates and one former West Holt Public Schools in Atkinson graduate.    

The SkillsUSA Championships are competitive events showcasing the best career and technical education students in the nation. Contests begin locally and continue through the state and national levels. This is a multi-million-dollar event that occupies a space equivalent to 20 football fields. More than 16,000 people - including students, teachers and business partners - participated in the weeklong event.

Nebraska students received 35 gold, silver and bronze medallions. Many also received prizes such as tools of their trade and/or scholarships to further their careers and education. In addition to the medalists, Nebraska had 36 top 10 finishers.

Several additional Northeast students placed in the top 10 nationally in other contests.

Trevor Dempster of O’Neill, and Sam Knoll, McCook were sixth in audio-radio production and Alexa Dougherty of O’Neill, Trevor Dozler of David City and Caleb Hartmann, of Fremont finished ninth in crime scene investigation. Also competing at SkillsUSA for Northeast  was Preston Dickau of Atkinson in automotive refinishing technology.

The Northeast students qualified for the national competition at the SkillsUSA State Leadership and Skills Conference held this spring in Grand Island.

The students were accompanied by instructors Brian Anderson, (media arts-broadcasting), Dave Beaudette, (auto body technology), Richard Chrisman (information technology), Lynnette Frey (drafting), Tony Hoffman (electrical construction and control), Matt McCarthy (criminal justice) and Tony Milenkovich,(diesel technology).

The philosophy of the SkillsUSA Championships is to reward students for excellence, to involve industry in directly evaluating student performance and to keep training relevant to employers’ needs. Students work against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting and culinary arts.

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry representatives working together to ensure a skilled workforce and helping each student succeed. 

A national student organization that serves students in high schools and college/technical schools, it provides quality education experiences for students in leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development.


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