Cuesta College is sending 10 students to the SkillsUSA Championships, a June showcase of the best career and technical students in the nation.

The students qualified after finishing first in their individual and team competitions at the annual State Leadership Conference and SkillsUSA California Championships, held April 28 to May 1 in San Diego. The event attracted some 1,300 California high school and two-year college students who competed in more than 100 contests.

Of the 17 Cuesta students who advanced to the state finals, 10 took home gold medals and earned an invite to Kansas City, Mo., while one received a silver and another earned a bronze medal.

“In terms of the sheer number of students, this is the best we’ve ever done,” said John Stokes, Cuesta’s engineering and technology division chairman. “It’s the most students we’ve ever taken to the state.”

Individual gold medal winners were Simon Rowe, in collision (auto body) repair; Maile Kahn, commercial baking; and Jeremiah Bradley, culinary arts.

In team pursuits, Robert MacKenzie, Ryan Stefanek, Zachary Scofield and Todd Sauter earned gold in the TeamWorks competition, which tests four students’ ability to work together to build a construction project using carpentry, electrical, plumbing and masonry skills.

And Jake Pauli, Steven Cox and Colton Hollister were best in the state in welding fabrication, a team competition that requires three students to build a designed project from the given material.

“The welding fabrication team won gold,” Stokes said. “That in and of itself is a huge thing because American River College up in Sacramento has always won it since it was ever introduced.”

Cuesta’s trio edged American River College, who took home silver.

“We have high hopes for our team,” he said. “We think they are capable of winning the national competition.”

Rounding out Cuesta’s medal winners were Christopher Wiley and Jeff Van Dam, who won silver and bronze respectively in the automotive refinishing technology category.

More than 15,000 people — including students, teachers and business partners—are expected to participate in the 47th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Kansas City, June 19-24. The contests will attract more than 5,600 outstanding career and technical education students — all state contest winners — who will compete hands-on in 96 different trade, technical and leadership fields.

Stokes said the strong showing at the SkillsUSA state finals indicated the quality of Cuesta’s career technical education program.

“Overall, we are one of the strongest CTE programs in the state,” he said.

Released May 5, 2011