TCD students take top spots in state skills contest

TCD welding, cosmetology students win state SkillsUSA contests

Judging by what happened in Springfield a couple weeks ago, DuPage County will be a more beautiful place in the near future, thanks to esthetics and welding. Let me explain.

The Illinois Association for SkillsUSA had its State Leadership and Skills Conference from April 27-29 in Springfield. More than 1,000 students statewide qualified to compete last February via field-specific written examinations. Twenty-four DuPage area high school students enrolled in career programs at Technology Center of DuPage achieved that eligibility and went to Springfield.

At the conference, students competed hands-on in 100 different trade, technical, and leadership contests, working against the clock and each other in front of industry professionals serving as judges.

By the end of the conference, 14 TCD students had placed among the top 10 in their contest divisions of esthetics, cosmetology, nail care, emergency medical technician, auto refinishing, and welding sculpture. As I said, beautiful!

Connor Lavin, a senior from Glenbard South in TCD's welding technology program, took first place in the welding sculpture division with an impressive "bonsai tree" creation. For the contest, competitors had to develop and execute their welded design prior to the conference, then at the event present a notebook documenting the process and deliver a presentation to judges.

"I was the last one to present a project," Lavin said, "which was pretty terrifying."

Jitters notwithstanding, Lavin's project rose to the top and the achievement garnered scholarship awards from Lincoln Electric (welding products and training programs) and Ohio Technical College.

Lavin is still applying for a union pipefitters apprenticeship, but also is exploring the creative world of ornamental welding and the opportunities available through global companies like Lincoln Electric.

Cosmetology seniors representing TCD swept the esthetics contest. In addition to state champion Jamie Shorner of Lisle High School, Jacqueline Pawl of Downers Grove South placed second and Lea Vicari of Lake Park placed third.

The esthetics contest included a written exam, oral skin assessment, sanitation, skin analysis, basic facial demonstration, facial massage, and a demonstration of makeup techniques.

As state champions, Lavin and Shorner are eligible to compete at National SkillsUSA June 19-23 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Other notable state results for TCD include Kayleigh Quinn of Glenbard North and Athina Darrus from Downers Grove South, who placed second and third, respectively, in cosmetology-hair styling and cutting.

Senior Bogdana Tomei of Lake Park earned a silver medal in nail care and application techniques. Brody Hickey of Downers Grove South received a silver medal in auto refinishing, while his auto body classmate Kelly Keane of Fenton High School scored first in the state in her eligibility exam and fifth overall. All of TCD's top 10 winners are listed at

As I mentioned in last month's column, SkillsUSA is one of the Career and Technical Student Organizations authorized by Congress through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act.

Founded in 1965, SkillsUSA is a nonprofit partnership of industry and middle school, high school and college students and instructors, designed to ensure America has the skilled workforce it needs to stay competitive. More than 600 corporations, trade associations, businesses and labor unions actively support SkillsUSA at the national level.

The organization serves more than 300,000 members through 18,000 local chapters and 52 state and territorial associations. This diverse talent pipeline covers 130 trade, technical, and skilled service occupations, the majority STEM-related.

Get more information and a video preview of nationals at The enthusiasm is contagious.

Next week, the SkillsUSA winners will be recognized among more than 90 DuPage high school seniors at TCD's Senior Awards Night. In addition to the year's competition winners, there are awards for outstanding program achievement, excellence in effort, TCD ambassadors, scholarship recipients, and those honored by the DAOES board as TCD Students of the Month.

As the year closes, I ask you to check the "News and Highlights" section of the TCD main page. You will come away encouraged by the talent, focus and career goals demonstrated by all the DuPage students who chose to get a head start on their future at TCD.

• Mike Zimmerman is director for the DuPage Area Occupational Education System, the governing body for Technology Center of DuPage and other career and technical education delivery sites in the region. See for participating member high schools and information about TCD's advanced CTE programs. Community members may arrange a visit to TCD by calling (630) 691-7572.

Jamie Shorner, SkillsUSA state winner in the esthetics competition, shows off her completed makeup design on model Maya Rebhan. Fantasy makeup technique was one of the many skill demonstrations in the esthetic division. Shorner and Rebhan are Lisle High School seniors in the cosmetology program at Technology Center of DuPage. Courtesy of Technology Center of DuPage
Connor Lavin, TCD welding student from Glenbard South, took first in the state at SkillsUSA in welding sculpture. Lavin will go to SkillsUSA Nationals in June. Courtesy of Technology Center of DuPage
Connor Lavin's "bonsai tree" welding sculpture earned the gold medal at SkillsUSA Illinois. Courtesy of Technology Center of DuPage
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