Double the Leadership, Double the Impact: Celebrating Two New York State (NYS) SkillsUSA Officers at WSWHE BOCES

The journey of a NYS SkillsUSA officer begins at the regional competition in the Spring where each of the six SkillsUSA areas elects their own vice president. At the NYS SkillsUSA Conference in Syracuse, NY in April, young leaders have another opportunity to showcase their public speaking, leadership, and teamwork abilities by campaigning for the positions of president, treasurer, secretary, parliamentarian, or officer-at-large. If elected they attend  SkillsUSA’s National Leadership & Skills Conference, an intensive nine day training in Atlanta, Georgia. 

In July NYS officers from the entire state travel to Albany NY to plan the annual Fall Leadership Conference, which hosts 450-500 students from across NYS. This is the students’ first “live” show where they have an opportunity to demonstrate the teamwork, leadership, organizational and management skills they’ve been working on since Atlanta. 

In September, these students embark on a pivotal chapter of their development by participating in the Washington Leadership Training Institute conference. Gathering alongside 500 SkillsUSA students from across the nation, the NYS officers advocate for Career and Technical Education and Perkins funding. By championing an important cause they also enhance their communication skills and cultivate a sense of teamwork that extends beyond geographical boundaries.

From November to April the officers work independently with their own chapters coordinating monthly community service and leadership events and run their area conference all while meeting virtually to prepare for the state conference.

Reflecting on his experience as NYS SkillsUSA President, Zachary Kramar, a senior at North Warren CSD, said 

“I have enjoyed public speaking. It was nice getting up in front of 100 to 200 people.” 

He says, “it’s definitely changed me as a person. I work better with a team now. Before, I always liked solo work. I didn’t like group projects before. Now I’ve learned how to work better with the team. I feel like I’ve become a more efficient leader than before. My goal in the end is to become an executive chef in a restaurant. SkillsUSA has also changed my views on post secondary education. Before I had no intention to go to college. But now I have been accepted to a number of colleges.”

Mikayla Linehan, is the NYS SkillsUSA Area 3 Vice President from Queensbury UFSD. 

“This experience has really helped me to accept constructive criticism. It has also helped me to be able to open up to more people and talk to them. After fall leadership and being a state officer, it really changed my perspective on a lot of things and changed my life for the better. I would say to others, take the chance and do something great,” says Mikayla.

To have these high-level officers at the same time and at one BOCES is unusual. 

“I’ve been a SkillsUSA advisor since 2006. We’ve had students that have run for president, but haven’t made it to that level. To have a president and a vice president, both in culinary, is also a testament to their instructor,” says Work-based Learning Coordinator Brené Choppa. 

Culinary Arts Instructor, Chef Nick Zwart incorporates the SkillsUSA framework into his daily teachings. The SkillsUSA Framework illustrates how students fulfill the mission of the organization: to empower members to become skilled professionals, career-ready leaders and responsible community members. Overall there are seventeen essential elements, leadership, workplace skills, multicultural sensitivity and awareness and teamwork are just a few.  

“Having several state officers at this campus really showcases the level that we hold our students to”, says Zwart. “We push them out of their comfort zones to do something that is going to help them grow as a person, in their chosen profession.”

WSWHE BOCES is proud to partner with SkillsUSA in the “Total Participation Plan.” This means that all WSWHE BOCES CTE students can participate in SkillsUSA activities and competitions.  Eliminating cost barriers reflects WSWHE BOCES commitment to providing equitable access for students 

There are many opportunities beyond the skills competitions and leadership development. Students often qualify for scholarships.