Nationals 2018: Reflections from the O & C Team

Competing with the "best of the best" in the nation, LCCTC's Chapter of SkillsUSA Opening and Closing Team ended up ranking 8th in the nation!  This year, medals were earned by Georgia, Texas, and Ohio, all three different teams from the past few years.

What is Opening and Closing?  It is a public speaking team of seven who open a meeting, describe the points of the SkillsUSA emblem, and close the meeting -- all the while moving, sitting, standing, and walking in a natural, unified manner. And in their own words, "It's a lot of fun!"  These kids develop outstanding confidence, the ability to speak to an audience of one or a thousand, and a sense of responsibility and professionalism that is beyond reproach.

Each member of LCCTC's O & C team earned the SkillPoint Certificate for exceeding industry standards in their competition (certainly NOT an "everybody gets ice-cream" certificate), and they won over the hearts of so many who came to us telling us that they, too thought they were phenomenal! 

There were so many highs in the competition and throughout the week -- more than the momentary low of not hearing our name for the medal deck. During the first round of competition, LCCTC's team came in first place in our room (1/3 of the total field of 29). When analyzing the top scores from every team in the second round, ]the scores were tight, with many points on the scoring rubric were just a fraction of a point away from the top scores and a few even earning top-point status! 

LCCTC, Lawrence County and the great state of Pennsylvania can be incredibly proud of our kiddos; they showed outstanding sportsmanship, they worked through frustrations, they had a lot of fun and BEHAVED, and even more importantly -- they have developed an unbreakable "second-family" bond. What an incredible experience this week has been at 2018 SkillsUSA National Championships!

Please enjoy the reflections of this week from the kids:

Krista Berkley ~ President, Cosmetology Class of 2018:

I cannot begin to express how proud I am of my team. 

All of the hours of hard work, laughs, frustration, and tears (good and bad), payed off.  We competed better than ever before!

This team has taught me not only about public speaking and business etiquette; I learned so much about myself.  For the last two years, my team has been a constant source of stability in my life, so I would like to say, "Thank you" -- to all of our advisers for putting in all of the work behind the curtains and for thinking of new ways for us to improve and grow; to our school and community for supporting us in years past, this year, and for all the years to come; and to those of you who, even though we may have been strangers, so generously donated to our Donors Choose campaign!  

Most of all, I'd like to thank my team -- my "second family."  I have so much love in my heart for each and every one of you.  Although we didn't medal this year, we HAVE won.  In my eyes, we are champions. We have developed a bond that nobody else could possibly understand.  This was my final competition as a SkillsUSA contestant and as your President, but that doesn't mean that this is all over.  I will remain on the sidelines cheering you all on -- for the underclassmen as you compete next year, and for the seniors, as we go our separate ways and achieve successes in life!  

Over the past week, we have created memories that will stay with me forever -- walking down Louisville's 4th street, laughing and talking about things that probably make no sense at all to anyone else.  I love each of you!  Thank you for all of the memories; this experience has been truly unforgettable.

As I leave you with this last thought:  "I now declare this meeting adjourned until our next regular meeting or until a special meeting shall be called by your President."  

With much love, Madame President 2018 ~ LCCTC's Opening and Closing Team

Tristyn Gravatt ~ Historian, Commercial Arts Class of 2018:

For two years now, SkillsUSA has become a huge part of my life.  

In this organization, I found myself getting close to so many.  My team is my "second family."  We even call our advisers, "Mamma Bear" and "Pappa Bear."  We laugh, cry, and get frustrated with each other, just like any family does.  But in this "family" of mine, I found HOME.  I found a place with these people and have made forever friendships.  This past week in KY, we got excited with each other, sad with each other, and somehow, we laughed 'til we cried...even over a game of checkers!  

Somehow -- in the mess of practice, competition, practice, ceremonies, practice, mandatory meetings, and more practice, every night, we somehow managed to sit down and eat dinner -- together, phones-off and in the middle of the table -- unless we wanted to take pictures of our food, of course.  THIS was my favorite part:  asking about each other's day, conversing over everything and anything.  

As a senior, the thought of this being over is bittersweet.  I can't wait to follow my dreams, but I am going to miss this little family of mine.  

If I could say one more thing to my team and advisers, it would be this:  "I love you."  And I know that if 5 years down the road I need you, you'll be there; I hope you know that you can expect the same from me -- even if we haven't spoken since this day.  You'll always be my "family."  

Love you guys <3

Felicity Weir ~ Vice President, Health Assistant Class of 2018:

Nationals is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I was fortunate enough to experience twice!  

Just like any other trip, there were bumps along the way, but we persevered and pulled through -- together.  Not only did this trip help our team's bond strengthen, it can also be used as a learning experience, as well. Being able to watch the other teams truly opened our eyes to some points we may have missed prior to competing.  

Although we didn't medal, I can say for all when I say that we are happy for the teams who did because we all know the effort and hard work that goes into preparing for this competition!  Meeting with the other teams and encouraging each other was one of the highlights of competition day!

Regardless of how we placed, I am and will continuously be immensely proud of my team and of myself.  

Opening and closing has not only taught me so much about professionalism, but also about myself. I will forever be thankful for all of the memories, lessons, and opportunities this team has presented to me.  As much as I hate to say good-bye as I graduate, It's more of a:  "See you later."  

In my heart, I will always be a "Red Jacket."  

I can't wait to see what's in store for next year's team.  I believe in you, guys!

Jaden Locke ~ Secretary, Computer and Office Technology Class of 2019:

My first trip to SkillsUSA National Championships in Louisville, KY was inspirational.  Students from all over the country came together in the spirit of competition.  As our turn to compete drew closer, the nerves began to set in -- after all, we were competing against amazing teams who have pushed through and won at their state levels, just as we had!  I had complete faith in my team and we pushed through those nerves and gave it our all.  

Although we did not medal, I learned so much about how other teams interpret the scope, about how to be true leaders from the seniors on the team, and about myself and how far I can really grow as an individual. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to compete with this team, and I can't wait for future competitions!

Dayuna Ware ~ Reporter, Health Assistant Class of 2019

As a two-year member, I can tell you this:  This team has opened my eyes; they have shown me that anything is possible.  I am so blessed, so grateful, so fulfilled because of this team -- this "family" that I have.  We laugh, we cry, we have our attitudes, but we never go to sleep without saying that we love each other.  

And our advisor -- She "be doin' it all!"  I love her because she sees something in me, and now as a senior, she has helped me to see what she sees.  

 My experience in Louisville, KY was the best -- especially when we competed.  For the third year in a row, our team has made it to the second round and we can be proud to say that we are 8th in the nation!  We earned our SkillPoint certificate!  We did our very best, and we had the time of our lives.  

Though I met so many people -- many who showed me the value of being a good sport as I watched them in the audience, but the best part of this adventure was being with the people I love. I used to call them "my team", and then "my friends," but now I call them "my family."  "Yinz" are my GOLD!   

I cannot wait to compete again!  We are not giving up, and in 2019, we're coming back even STRONGER!   

Trenton Yale ~ Parliamentarian, Masonry Class of 2019

I had a GREAT experience at SkillsUSA National Championships.  Considering it was my first time competing at such a high level and it's only the second time I've ever competed, I am very proud of the outcome!  

I know we did our best, and I'm proud of how far we have all come -- myself included.  At the beginning of the year, I wasn't interested in making new friends or speaking in front of people, but by the end of this all -- I can't wait to do it again!  I look forward to making new bonds with new "family" on next year's team!

Next year, we have big shoes to fill; Krista, Felicity, and Tristyn have been amazing leaders, and we're going to miss them, but we underclassmen, now veterans, are just as determined to bring home a medal!

This was an incredible experience for me, and I'll never forget it.  

Tabatha Zang ~ Treasurer, Veterinarian Assistant Class of 2019

My journey to Kentucky for SkillsUSA National Competition was amazing.  I had a lot of fun every day, but my favorite part was when we practiced together.  At times, it was frustrating, but we pushed through as a team -- as a "family."   

I am so proud to say that our team was amazing, and we are so proud of all we accomplished throughout the year.  

I would also like to say, "Thank you" to all of the generous people who donated to the O & C Team helping us to compete.  It really means so much to us to know that so many -- even complete strangers -- were willing to donate money toward our food bills helping us to be able to have the energy we needed to do our very best.  With every meal we shared in our adviser's room and at the restaurants, we thought of you and your kindness.  Know we did our very best to make you proud -- and we even ate fruit and vegetables! 

This trip will be memorable because even though we placed 8th in the nation, we are golden in our hearts.  All in all -- that's really what matters.