Doors continue to open for young professionals at the Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center who participate in SkillsUSA, a national organization that promotes leadership, lifelong learning, and the dignity of work in order to ensure that our nation has a skilled workforce. Willem Weston, a senior at New Paltz High School who is enrolled in the Career & Technical Center’s Animal Science program, has been elected as the New York State (NYS) SkillsUSA Area IV vice president.
Weston's journey to become vice president, a role that comes with significant responsibilities within the SkillsUSA framework, began at the Area IV regional competition in January 2023. At the event, Weston demonstrated exceptional skills and leadership abilities, impressing peers and advisors alike.
Officially appointed to his office at the NYS SkillsUSA competition that was held in Syracuse this past spring, Weston wasted no time in assuming his duties. Over the summer, he participated in the State officer training at the National Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, where he honed his professionalism, communication, and leadership skills. This training, which is a hallmark of SkillsUSA, empowers students and advisors to excel in their roles and serve as exemplary leaders in their communities.
Weston, accompanied by SkillsUSA advisor Dr. Kathy Landers, also visited Washington, D.C., participating in the prestigious Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI). This immersive experience included a range of activities designed to foster leadership, including congressional visits, tours of Washington landmarks, and even the solemn laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. Additionally, WLTI evening activities provided networking opportunities and a chance to exchange experiences with elected officials.
But Weston is not the only Ulster BOCES young professional benefitting from involvement in SkillsUSA. Thanks to Ulster BOCES’ recent designation as a “total participation school,” cost barriers to participation have been removed and all Career & Technical Center students may now participate in club activities and competitions.
“Being a total participation school has been a real game changer,” Landers said, referencing a new level of engagement made possible by removing the economic barriers to participation. “There is so much added value for the student. There are now a multitude of avenues for them to get involved.”
Landers noted that the total participation designation reflects Ulster BOCES’ commitment to providing equitable access for students by including participation costs in its annual budget, which makes it possible for any interested young professional to easily participate. This shift has opened up a plethora of opportunities for students to engage with the program, go above and beyond, and unlock their full potential.
As a result, the program has become a catalyst for students to prepare for competitions, engage in meaningful community service projects, and cultivate their leadership skills by actively contributing to event planning and organizing skills-themed activities. Through this comprehensive participation, the SkillsUSA club empowers students to not only hone their technical skills, but also become actively involved in their communities, fostering a sense of pride and connectedness. With this new approach, Ulster County youth are poised to explore various avenues for skill-building and leadership development, setting them on a path to brighter, more promising futures.
Weston and Landers are currently preparing to run the NYS Fall Leadership Conference in Albany. This event will draw students from all corners of the State, offering them valuable insights into the SkillsUSA framework, essential elements, and the organization's mission. The conference promises to be an invaluable opportunity for students to grow and develop their leadership skills.
“We are so proud of Willem’s accomplishments and are excited to see the positive impact he will have on SkillsUSA as Area IV vice president,” said District Superintendent Jonah M. Schenker, Ed.D. “His dedication to and passion for his craft exemplify the values of SkillsUSA, and we are confident that he will continue to inspire and lead both locally and nationally.”
- Career & Technical Education (CTE)