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RHS Students Earn Honors At SkillsUSA Competition
There were several students from RHS that competed in the SkillsUSA competition last month including, from left, William Kendrick, Andrew Palomino, Jesus Tovar, Jose Rivera, and teacher Cory Casteel, who helped coach his students. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

Riverbank High School was well represented at the SkillsUSA competition held at San Joaquin Delta College last month where several of the participants will be advancing to the state competition. The team, under the direction of the Building and Construction Instructor Cory Casteel and the Graphic Design Instructor Jon Gianelli, was prepared for the 2020 competition.

The following students competed: Miriam Albor: Gold Medal in Advertising Design, Brittany Guzman: Silver Medal in Advertising Design, Ana Ruiz: Bronze Medal in Advertising Design, Julian Murillo: Advanced to State in Advertising Design, Jesus Tovar: Gold Medal in Cabinetmaking, Jose Rivera: Silver Medal in Cabinetmaking, Andrew Palomino: Carpentry, William Kendrick: Carpentry, Emmanuel Diaz: Bronze Medal in Extemporaneous Speaking, Ezequiel Arriaga Velazques: Advanced to State in Extemporaneous Speaking, Carlos Garcia: Gold Medal in Introductory Woodworking, Elias Amador: Gold Medal in Introductory Woodworking, Estaban Verdin: Introductory Woodworking.

There were approximately 322 students that competed on Feb. 8 for Region 5 which includes Alpine, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Madera, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced county high schools, junior college and middle school students. This is the fourth year that RHS has had a SkillsUSA team.

“We continue to work hard at improving the program for the students,” said Casteel. “This will be our third year to have students advance to state and this year is the most we have had. Plus, we qualified in two new categories for us, cabinetry and Advertising Design.”

Palomino competed in Carpentry where they had about three-and-a-half hours to gather all the components, cut the measurements accurately and read the blueprints to build dog house. He was nervous at first but as the competition continued he got more comfortable and confident.

“I enjoy hands on type of things and saying that I built that it is a good accomplishment and a good feeling to see what I am capable of doing,” said Palomino. “I think the competition is great to help get you out of your comfort zone and see what other people do. It is just a good experience to try new things and meet new people.”

For Kendrick’s first year competing in Cabinetry he thought it was a great experience and completely different than working in class with his classmates.

“I thought it was a pretty cool experience,” added Kendrick. “Casteel really helped us; he drew up practice drawings and he taught us how to read them. We built something similar here to practice.”

To prepare for the competition the wood and cabinetry students logged a total of 89½ hours of practice after school and on Saturdays. Cabinetry students built their projects on campus. On the day of the competition they had to do a presentation and explain the process to a judge. Tovar and Rivera worked on their projects for about a week which included time after school.

For Rivera, building the cabinet was the best part of the competition and the most challenging was presenting it to the judge.

“I wasn’t stressed out,” Tovar said about the competition. “Last year I took intro to woodworking and got fourth. I took it again this year for cabinetry and got first place. Since I failed the first time I had to try again and it worked. Don’t give up.”

Casteel explained that they received the Quality Chapter award last year and a $1,000 grant from SkillsUSA California which they should be receiving once again this year. However, the amount of the grant may be less as there were more chapters that qualified for the competition.

“My graphic design students competed in the Advertising Design competition where they took an exam on graphic design principles and were then given assets and parameters for creating an advertisement,” said Gianelli. “They had three hours to put together the most effective advertisement design and were judged based upon their technical abilities, aesthetics and effectiveness of their design, and the exam.”

For the Extemporaneous Speaking competition Diaz and Velazques had five minutes to prepare a 3- to 5-minute speech on a specific topic that they were given.

“My students worked very hard preparing and did their best during the competition,” added Gianelli. “I was very proud of the hard work that they put in and the willingness to put themselves out there and improve their skills. The purpose of this competition is to help prepare students for careers and post-secondary education and I feel it did a very good job of that.”

Last week the SkillsUSA team at RHS had a recognition meeting after school where they received shirts and enjoyed a bar-b-que. They were to be celebrated once more at the regular meeting of the board of trustees on Tuesday, March 3.

“Besides competition the students do community service projects,” stated Casteel. “The first one this year was a haunted house at the California Avenue School ‘Lights On’ event in October. Last year in the spring we replaced about half the tops and benches on the picnic tables at Kerr Park in Oakdale. We are planning to replace the remainder this year. Right now the students are fundraising to help pay for the State Conference/Competition.”

There were various contests at the SkillsUSA competition held at San Joaquin Delta College for students to compete in, showcasing their knowledge and talent. Photo Contributed