PARIS — Despite fewer choosing to participate, 12 Oxford Hills Tech School students competed at Maine’s SkillsUSA 2021 Conference, held virtually this year. Three students won gold medals, five silver and four won bronze medals for their entries.
“Normally we send more than 40 students and the competitions are held in Bangor,” said OHCHS’ SkillsUSA Advisor Fred Steeves.
Senior Alden Timm, who is part of OHTS’ photography and graphic design programs, was a gold medalist this year. He submitted two images
“I prefer landscapes for photography,” Timm said. “It’s mostly rivers, trees and hills. I really like rivers. but I like other mediums, like portraits, advertising and sports photography too.
“One of the two photos I submitted this year was a motion blur of a river. The other was a piece that was more conceptual. It was an ominous boot stepping on a small flower.”
Timm’s personal equipment includes his camera, some lenses and a tripod but he also borrows lenses for different projects from the tech school program. He has competed in OHTS’ tech challenge and SkillsUSA since his sophomore year, although in 2020 state competitions were cancelled due to COVID.
After graduation Timm heads off to St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York where he will combine further photography studies with English. He will start with an undeclared major; he may pursue a career as a photojournalist but is not yet locked in on his decision.
“Photography is the way for me to express myself through art, but behind the lens,” Timm said. “I’m not as good at painting or drawing. Anyplace is a good place to take photos. You find the right subject in the right place, anywhere can be good.”
The top medalists from the state conference will advance to SkillsUSA’s National championship, which will also be held virtually. According to Steeves, two OHTS gold medalists, Mackenzie Denbow and Thomasina Lester, have decided to not participate.
“Mackenzie and Thomasina will pass the torch onto silver medalists,” Steeves said. “It is normally a weeklong event, held in places like Louisville, Kentucky or Kansas City, Missouri. This year it would have headed to Georgia. But because it’s virtual now, many kids are just not that into it. It’s the same with schools across the gamut.
So far, Alden is the only Maine student who has decided to participate, although there is still a little time for others to decided.”
Typically States has between 800-900 contestants, but this year there were only 122. Some schools opted out of participating at all. And some contests couldn’t be done virtually.
The program Steeves teaches at OHTS, Auto Tech Collision and Repair, was one such contest. Others were Automotive Refinishing, Automotives and Building Construction.
“For my students to compete, they repair a dent, paint a panel, weld,” explained Steeves. “It is physical hands-on work to do that can’t be done virtually. The things that they have to use their hands to do, the advisory committee couldn’t get their heads around it. Shipping a fender to each school and having the student repair it and ship it back to be judged?
“Just the logistics of proctoring each event was too cumbersome. And we didn’t know if we’d be code green, yellow or red at any time. We couldn’t guarantee the students would be able to adequately prepare to compete. In the County things were probably pretty good but down around York county, they had a lot of 100% remote days.”
Senior Thomasina Lester took the gold medal at States in the Related Technical Math contest, solving 50 word problems within 90 minutes. As a sophomore she took a silver medal in the same event. She would have competed her junior year too, if not for COVID.
“I’ve been involved three years now,” Lester said of her decision. “I’ve gotten to know the organization and done a lot within it. In terms of Nationals, I didn’t think it would be that beneficial to me. A lot of the value is the coming together with so many students from around the country and meeting them, all with different versions of similar goals.
“It wouldn’t have been the best experience in a virtual setting, especially in my competition, to attend this year. But I’ve still had a great experience with what I did do.”
The SkillsUSA 2021 state medalists representing Oxford Hills Technical School are:
Kelly Whittemore in Welding Sculpture
Kacie Record in State T-shirt Design
Team of Adam Angevine and Megan Mitchell in Digital Cinema Production
Lucy Tardiff in Advertising Design
Alexia Fasano in Photography
Madisyn McAlister in State Pin Design
The team of Payton Sherbinski and Colton Kimball in Digital Cinema Production
Mackenzie Denbow in Welding Sculpture
Alden Timm in Photography
Thomasina Lester in Related Technical Math