Feb. 4, 2020
Two students from Pontiac have been elected by their peers to serve as state officers for SkillsUSA. D’Naughtia Curry, 18-years-old and Aracely Hernandez, 17-years-old.
Both are students at Pontiac’s International Technology Academy and the automotive technology program at the Oakland Schools technical campus. It’s the first time two non-traditional students (as women in the automotive course) have both been named as state officers for the program at Oakland Schools, according to Paul Galbenski, dean.
SkillsUSA is a national, student-run organization that helps teenagers advance their education and leadership skills in their chosen careers. It’s comprised of technical education students ranging from culinary to construction, cosmetology and automotive. Students enter competitions to test their abilities, meet with governmental leaders and advocate for career and technical education across the nation.
For Hernandez, it’s an opportunity for personal growth as well as her career. “I’m still deciding if I want to go into automotive or the medical field, so when my advisor recommended trying to become an officer, that pushed me to do this,” she said. “I want to be more of a leader. I’ve always been a shy student and this will help me become more outspoken.”
Curry said that in her time studying at the technical campus, she’s developed a passion for communication and public speaking. She’s most excited for the chance to introduce other teenagers and kids to the trades industries, as well as the traveling and training the pair will do over the next two years.
“We’re basically the face of career and technical education for our state,” Curry said. “This gives us a lot of opportunity to learn leadership skills. I’ve developed a passion for sharing what we know with others and that’s what I’m bringing to the program.”
The students recently had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with legislators and share their ideas about career and technical education. Throughout the year, they’ll help organize skills-competitions, training sessions and meet and greets with other governmental officials.
“This year we have the largest number of students we've ever had participating in this program at the state level,” Galbenski said. “It’s a historic moment for us to have two nontraditional students standing at this level.”