Club at Estacada High School encourages students to follow their passions, develop abilities

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS: ESTACADA SKILLSUSA - The SkillsUSA club at Estacada High School has seen record growth this year.

Five students at Estacada High School are pursuing their passions thanks to support from their peers and a club designed to prepare them for life after graduation.

The group is the Estacada High School chapter of SkillsUSA, a national career and technical student organization whose members take part in skill events, competitions, conventions and field trips.

The local club, which meets once a week, has plenty of reason to celebrate this year. Estacada's SkillsUSA has seen record growth in membership and students are celebrating a successful trip to the annual state competition.

"SkillsUSA is a great opportunity to learn and grow," said Club President Michael Gamble, who joined as a freshman four years ago. "I've learned how to have a strong work ethic and skills that I can use throughout life."

SkillsUSA is a partnership between students, teachers and industry to ensure the country has a skilled workforce. The group helps each member excel, providing educational programs, events and competitions that support career and technical education (CTE).

The Estacada students were celebrating their performance at State Leadership and Skills Conference — the biggest event of the year with more than 1,000 students attending from across Oregon. The two-day competition ran Friday, April 20, and Saturday, April 21, at the Oregon National Guard's Camp Withycombe in Clackamas.

During the competition students can earn scholarships, college credit and prizes.

"We had a lot of fun at the competition, and it's a great place to meet people," Gamble said.

This year everyone in the Estacada club attended. In the past, the group has had as many as 31 members, though last year was a low point in terms of membership. But things are beginning to trend upward, as the Estacada group saw the largest membership growth in the entire state of Oregon.

"We are regrouping and rebuilding this year," said Glen Nation, the club's advisor, who is credited by the students for making SkillsUSA so welcoming.

SkillsUSA isn't just about welding or automotive work. There are many different disciplines offered, so students can follow their passions and work on their own niche. They can dive into beauty, arts, culinary arts, cake decorating, entrepreneurship, photography, interview skills, video production, firefighting and much more. The group also gets to travel for field trips, like a recent visit to Salem to check out the Blackhawk helicopters.

"If you are looking for a career right after high school, this is the group for you," said Vice President Tristin McNemar.

Estacada's SkillsUSA wants to keep growing in the future, having more members join and more place on the podium during competitions.

"I would like to see this group become the most popular in school," Gamble said.

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