A year seems so long ago. Then, I was focusing on the long haul to get through the fourth nine weeks of my sophomore year.
I was trying to do well during my second year in track, and I was excited about going to prom as an underclassman. Now, something new has burst into my life; that is a youth led organization devoted to students in the career and technology fields: SkillsUSA. As an interactive multimedia student, Skills has given me plenty of opportunities to speak my voice as my field is all about communication.
We are at the Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School getting our bags checked for the big trip to Columbus for the Ohio state championships of SkillsUSA. I have my speech reviewed over in my head. Brushing my teeth this morning I had it perfectly recited. I have to remind myself that this is really happening: I will be running for the state office of president.
All over the state of Ohio students of vocational and tech schools prepare each year for the annual state championships in hopes of getting first in their competition so they can advance to nationals in Kansas City, Missouri. There are thousands of students who come pilling on buses all headed to the state fair grounds.
One and a half days.
We are at the hotel. I head down for a run on the treadmill so I can clear my head. Then, I head back up to my room and say my speech over and over again. Even amidst the noise and excitement of everyone coming into our room I am saying my speech repetitively. I am one of those people who hardly get nervous. Even walking up on stage I won’t be too nervous. However, I am one of those people who like to feel prepared.
The red blazers, white shirts, black pants, and black shoes. SkillsUSA is all about professionalism and learning to advance in the workforce as a skilled employee. There are hundreds of competitions and sponsors willing to help us as students. Also, there are scholarship opportunities and experience. For example, I am the current northeast Ohio regional SkillsUSA president.
On these trips it is inevitable to get little sleep. I slip on my high heels and am ready to head on the bus uniform clad. One step off and there are countless people there ready to compete or setting up. Hugs are given from me to the current state officers who I met at the Regional Officer Training Institute earlier this year in Washington D.C. Delegates for state office crowd in a hall to get forms and information for elections.
As being an officer there are a lot of responsibilities and expectations. For starters, there are an “opening and closing ceremony” which opens meetings and competitions. All regional officers go to training to learn who is on their team, and exactly their duties. We were expected to compete in one of two competitions provided there: extemporaneous speech and job interview. I took first place in the extemporaneous speech contest, and gave a prepared speech during the awards ceremony.
The first day is done! I hang up my posters for election. We get back to the hotel all exhausted, and I try to review my speech a few more times then I hit the sheets and am in dream land not long before 5 a.m. comes.
The morning of.
The bus leaves at 6, and I will be giving my speech at 8:30. All the candidates are in professional dress, some with notes cards, some not. Many are giving deep breaths, or chatting amongst themselves. As the voting delegates pile in I walk up and introduce myself to countless individuals. I discuss the competitions, and Skills, school, and their tech fields.
To get to this place we all had to take a screening test and pass by a 74%. We had to come up with a speech, and be prepared to answer a question if we were providential enough to make it as a top-two finalist for the office we were running for.
The other speeches; some breeze by, some drag on, but they call us presidential candidates to lineup behind stage as the vice president candidates are giving their speech. I will be giving my speech second out of the presidential delegates. The first delegate goes. Then, me. I speak with poise. I hear my voice projecting over the crowd. I scan the crowd and talk with my hands. My first line is “Just breathe they tell me.” My speech is creative and different.
We have a recess after the other speeches.
After recess: I didn’t get it.
Even though I won’t be the next state president, I am not discouraged. So many other opportunities have opened up, and I have never been one to be a sore loser. I just simply look to the next competition. My speech was given to the best of my ability, every moment of this was given to the best of my ability, but I know I feel an odd sense of relief. It’s a big commitment to become a state officer. I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason.
Melissa Prax is an active student and athlete. Her introduction to film and editing began when she took an Interactive Multimedia class at Grand Valley High School/ Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School. (See Grand Valley's Profile elsewhere this issue) Her involvement in the class led to her election and win of SkillsUSA northeast Ohio regional president. Every few months she writes a student column for her local newspaper, The Star Beacon. After high school Melissa is looking forward to double major in broadcast journalism and nutrition.