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Skills USA students prepare for a ‘World of Work’ 

By Miki Landseadel-Sanders

skills USA region 2

900 students compete in Skills USA regional event at Paso Robles High School

–Few school events can be deemed as challenging for area students, or for their distinguished regional competitors, than the Paso Robles High School Skills USA Region 2 Competition. Indeed the 900 students, who took part in the trials on Saturday, and who came from San Luis Obispo County as well as Santa Barbara, Monterey, Kern and Fresno Counties, entered the PRHS campus on fire with the desire to showcase their vocational and technical skills. Students tackled trials of know-how in categories as real as, audio radio production, electrical construction wiring, plumbing, mobile robotic technology, welding, telecommunications cabling, among a long list of other business and workforce specialties and applications.

Grace Stokes, Skills USA National winner, Speech category.

Grace Stokes, an alumna of PRHS (2009-2013) and Skills USA National winner in the category of Speech, who plans to graduate from Cuesta College this year, reveals that she competed in Skills USA throughout her high school experience. In fact, she maintains that this program “shaped the way I view the world, and did so in ways that school, on its own, could not.”

During that influential period of Stokes’ life she became accomplished in areas such as commercial baking, entrepreneurship, customer service, and speech. She is graduating from college with a degree in music and business. Stokes stated that without the benefit of what she termed “real world” instruction and training, she “would not have had exposure to the type of professionalism gained from this program, nor have known how to develop an actual portfolio of achievements, nor know the expectations for interviewing well for a job.”

Stokes, who is marrying in May of this year, now trains younger students to prepare for competition in areas of her expertise. This is a fundamental expectation of all students who have achieved the status of National Championship through Skills USA. It is an organization that looks upon student leadership with the same eye as they do youth occupational training.

Though Stokes may have seen the benefit of her education from a specifically “hands-on” perspective, academics actually do play a significant part in the overall vocational and technical programming at PRHS. As reported by Jen Gaviola, Director of Secondary Education for PRJUSD, “The PRHS Career Technical Education program is a program of study that involves a multiyear sequence of courses that integrates core academic knowledge with technical and occupational knowledge to provide students with a pathway to postsecondary education and careers. Our pathways are selected based upon local economic development industry data and support students in both college and career readiness.”

skills usa student

A Skills USA student woodworking.

Randy Canaday, a Vocational Ed instructor at PRHS, officiates as Skills USA High School Coordinator, and works in partnership with John Stokes of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, who is the Skills USA College Coordinator for this region. These two educators have built the Region 2 program at PRHS from a couple hundred participants to the 900 students in 2017 that now vie as teams or as individuals their specific category.

The program keeps growing. Last year the number of Gold Medal winners was 17. This year 23 students attained that award. Canaday and Stokes’ aim is to see the advancement of Region 2 students to the State Competition in San Diego in April and then on to the Nationals in Kentucky in June, where local students will compete with over 5,000 peers in related fields from all across the country.

The cost of the program at Nationals is over $35 million, according to Canaday. Given the number of adult observers and judges at the PRHS event this weekend, as well as the full provision of the campus through its many work-stations, one can point to the remarkable accomplishment of both of these adult organizers. Fortunately for Canaday and Stokes, PRHS stands alone as the best possible location for Region 2 competition as attested to by Arnold Kalvans, PRHS Computer Technician. “In fact,” he says, “PRHS is the only regional school among all the districts represented here where this event could possibly be facilitated.” Certainly, this presents one of many reasons for PRHS Bearcats to beam with pride.

More information about the Skills USA program can be found by visiting their website,

skills usa

Shielded Metal Arc Welder working with Skills USA.

Skills USA Conference Categories Region 2 Gold Recipients

  • 20 Second Elevator Story – Mary Vargas
  • Advertising Design – Valerie Cisneros
  • Audio Radio Production – (Team of 2) Jacob Kleinman, Benjamin Stainbrook
  • Broadcast News Production – (Team of 4) Rees Eddy, Joe Cantrell, Justin Ruberio, Ysabel Wulfing
  • Carpentry – Nick Matteson
  • Culinary Arts – Shannon Stel
  • Digital Cinema – (Team of 2) Jordan Davis, Bryant Goodman
  • Early Childhood Education Taylor Pafumi
  • Electrical Construction Wiring – Alim BenBrahim
  • First Aid/CPR – Madison Harris
  • Job Interview – Taylor Pafumi
  • Mobile Electronics Installation – Serae Collins
  • Mobile Robotic Technology – (Team of 2) Danielle Halebsky, Abigail Garcia
  • Mobile Robotic Technology – (Team of 2) Malia Gaviola, Maria Swing
  • Plumbing – Mason Steiner
  • Power Equipment Technology – Ethan Brown-Silva
  • Restaurant Service – Leslie Osuna
  • Technical Computer Applications – Eli Lewis
  • Telecommunications Cabling – Mason Brown
  • Web Page Design (team of 2) – Damian Navarro, Miguel Martinez
  • Welding – Iver Hanson
  • Welding, Oxy-acetylene – Justin Nored
  • Welding, Shielded Metal Arc – Tanner Branham


Skills USA Conference Categories Silver Recipients

  • Advertising Design – Loretta Burke
  • Audio Radio – Dylan Hughey, Kyle Meeder
  • Carpentry – Santiago Hernandez
  • Community Action Project – (Team of 2) Rachel Powel
  • Computer Programming – Emerson Phillips
  • Culinary Arts – Kyle Houston
  • Diesel Equipment Technology – Jonathan Russell
  • Digital Cinema – (Team of 2) Brina Dang, Aaliyah Lewis
  • Early Childhood Education – Carina Ezzell
  • Electrical Construction Wiring – Clinton Marsh
  • Job Interview – Madison Harris
  • Mobile Electronics Installation – Zoey Daniels
  • Mobile Robotic Technology – (Team of 2) Quincy Cooper, Jacob Cagliero
  • Mobile Robotic Technology – (Team of 2) Julia Hurd, Natalie Hurd
  • Power Equipment Technology – Wesley Radecki
  • T Shirt Design – Trevor Jaurequy
  • Telecommunications Cabling – Joanna Diaz
  • Web Page Design – (Team of 2) Elizabeth Phillips, Austin Williams
  • Welding Fabrication Daniel Oliver, Shane Terra, Tanner Washburn
  • Welding, Shielded Metal Arc Spencer Holstine


Conference Categories Bronze Recipients

  • 3 D Visualization and Animation – Jonah Carmon, Jesus Nevarez
  • Community Action Project – Juliana Thom
  • Culinary Arts – Trevor Pankratz
  • Diesel Equipment Technology – Giovanni Reyes De Luna
  • Early Childhood Education – Alex Jenks
  • Electrical Construction Wiring – Julien Brast
  • First Aid CPR – Daleah Miller
  • Introductory Woodworking – Hayden Wagner
  • Job Interview – Alexandra Jenks
  • Mobile Electronics Installation – Jefferson Arrias
  • Mobile Robotic Technology – (Team of 2) Caroline St. Martin, Jocelyn Trejo
  • Robotics: Urban Search & Rescue – (Team of 2) Justin Kim, Ethan Tran
  • Web Page Design – (Team of 2) Fernando Navarro, Luis Navarro
  • Welding, Shielded Metal Arc – Alfredo Saucedo


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About the author: News Staff

The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at