Technology students prep for national competition

Published 3:11 pm Friday, May 27, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Twelve Shelby County School of Technology students will compete June 19-24 against other top students at the SkillsUSA Championships in Kansas City, Mo.

The multi-million dollar event showcases the best career and technical students in the nation. Students must win their respective state competitions to qualify.

Last year, more than 5,600 contestants competed in 96 separate events occupying the space equivalent to 16 football fields.

“This just provides a lot of opportunities and opens lots of doors for these students,” said Tim Ellif, the technology school’s principal.

At the Alabama state championships in April, Robert Grant won his second consecutive state title in criminal justice, while Trey Garner won his second collision repair technology championship.

“They are returning to nationals again this year,” Ellif said May 27. “We’re hoping with that experience under their belts, knowing what nationals really entails and how big a challenge it is, hopefully at least one of those young men will bring back a gold medal.”

There’s more at stake than medals and bragging rights, as one student from the school learned several years ago when he won the wielding competition.

“He brought home over $30,000 worth of prizes,” Ellif said. “Before he ever got back, he was contacted by Alabama Power and was told, ‘before you even consider a job with anybody else, you need to come see us.’”

Other 2011 state champs and national qualifiers include Brandyn Barton in internetworking, John Costlow Jr. in computer maintenance technology, Tyler Whatley in technical computer applications, Colin Wright in telecommunications cabling, Matthew Shehan in firefighting and Cacy Smith in first aid and CPR.

Oliver Head, Marcus O’Neal and Samuel Schoggen will compete together in the team-based crime scene competition. Caleb Criss will go as one of five student state officers representing Alabama.

“These students compete in things they’re actually going to do for a living,” said Ellif, who will attend his third national competition as an observer.

“You talk about an opportunity and something that really gives these kids a leg up,” he added, “I don’t think even four years of education can do for these kids what the opportunity to compete at these things can do.”

School of Technology teachers Mark McCary and Gary Griffith will attend as advisors in collision repair technology and public service, respectively.

Teacher Steve Brooks will attend as one of Alabama’s four state advisors.