Brianna Begay, Aidan Brown and Orlan Dale, who are all first-year UNM-Gallup students and officers of the UNM-Gallup SkillsUSA Chapter, pose for photos at the SkillsUSA New Mexico State Leadership & Skills Conference in Albuquerque April 15. The team won gold in the college Promotional Bulletin Board category.
7 UNM-G students win state SkillsUSA gold
6 students earn silver, 1 earns bronze and 1 wins New Mexico Pin Design Contest
By Richard Reyes | Friday, May 12, 2023
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Seven students from The University of New Mexico-Gallup earned gold medals at the SkillsUSA New Mexico Championships in Albuquerque Saturday, April 15, earning the chance to compete at nationals in June.
In addition, one student won the state Pin Design Contest, meaning their artwork will represent New Mexico at the national competition.
“I’m very proud of our students, no matter the outcome,” UNM-Gallup SkillsUSA Chapter Advisor Ann Jarvis said. “It’s them taking a step out of that comfort zone. That’s a really big thing I advocate for.”
The following students earned gold in their respective categories:
- Brianna Begay, Aidan Brown and Orlan Dale, who are all first-year UNM-Gallup students and officers of the UNM-Gallup SkillsUSA Chapter, for Promotional Bulletin Board (college).
- Brittany Armijo, a UNM-Gallup nursing student, for Job Skill Demonstration Open (college).
- Gualterio Beyal Jr., a Center for Career and Technical Education fire science technology student, for Firefighting (high school).
- Judith Long, a CCTE Students Achieving New Directions student, for Job Interview (high school).
- Jacob Betone, a CCTE fire science technology student, for Action Skills (high school).
McKinley Academy student Kayliegh Begay gives a presentation on her team’s welding project during the Gallup SkillsUSA Chapter Demonstration Night in the Calvin Hall Center Auditorium in Gallup April 5. Begay won the SkillsUSA New Mexico Pin Design Contest.
Meanwhile, Kayliegh Begay, a McKinley Academy student, won the SkillsUSA New Mexico Pin Design Contest with an acrylic painting of, essentially, her own backyard. The image depicts hot-air balloons taking flight above the red rocks in the Churchrock area at sunset — all set within the outline of a Route 66 sign.
Kayliegh Begay said she was surprised to learn she won, but one of the things that set her design apart was the fact that she painted it. She said most of the other entries were digital designs.
“The mountains are behind my house,” Kayliegh Begay said. “I’ve had a couple people like tourists, painters and photographers that would stop and say how blessed we are to have these amazing mountains, and I think that’s true. We take it for granted every day.”
As the winner of the contest, Kayliegh Begay has earned the chance to present her design in the Pin Design Challenge at the SkillsUSA 2023 National Leadership & Skills Conference, which is scheduled June 19-23 in Atlanta.
All of the gold medal winners from UNM-Gallup also earned a berth to compete at nationals.
Brianna Begay, Aidan Brown and Orlan Dale attended the 2022 national competition. Prior to learning they won gold at the state award ceremony April 15, they talked about their hopes to return to Atlanta this year.
“It was kind of stressful,” Brianna Begay, who is studying liberal arts, said of last year’s experience volunteering as a National Courtesy Corps member. “We didn’t get enough sleep, we were always busy, we were on our feet and walking around, but what made me, this year, come back was seeing other competitions. It made me more confident this year that we’re going to get gold.”
Brittany Armijo, a UNM-Gallup nursing student, delivers a presentation on crocheting techniques during the Gallup SkillsUSA Chapter Demonstration Night in the Calvin Hall Center Auditorium in Gallup April 5. Armijo won a gold medal in the college Job Skill Demonstration Open category at the state competition.
Dale, who is studying cosmetology, competed in Extemporaneous Speaking at nationals last year, so he felt more confident in his professionalism skills going into this year’s competition.
“At first we were pretty nervous,” Dale said. “It was nerve-wracking and having a lot of anticipation, but as we got on board, we had the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. We really did a good performance, and I was really confident with them, and I was very proud of Aidan and Brianna.”
Brown, who is studying liberal arts, also acknowledged that she was nervous, but her teammates’ confidence gave her relief.
“Everybody is just as nervous as you are when the actual competition comes, so you don’t really have to be alone in that situation,” Brown said. “You can ask somebody to help you and then prepare, and they’ll actually do it for you because they’re really nice people.”
Other medalists from the UNM-Gallup team included:
- Layla Perry, a CCTE student for criminal justice, who earned silver in the high school Job Skill Demonstration A category.
- David Moreno, a UNM-G general studies student, who earned silver in the college Job Skill Demonstration Open category.
- Kellan Benally, a UNM-G automotive technology student, who earned silver in the college Job Skill Demonstration A category.
- Cheyenne Armijo, a McKinley Academy student; Makai Begay, a CCTE design and digital media student; and Joshua Chavira, a CCTE design and digital media student, who earned silver as a team in the high school Promotional Bulletin Board category.
- Dewight Leupp, a UNM-Gallup liberal arts student, who earned bronze in the college Job Interview category.
David Moreno, a UNM-G general studies student, showcases his skill with nunchaku technique during the Gallup SkillsUSA Chapter Demonstration Night in the Calvin Hall Center Auditorium in Gallup April 5. Moreno earned a silver medal in the college Job Skill Demonstration Open category at the state competition.
In addition to the gold medalists, Leupp earned the chance to represent New Mexico at the national championship in Atlanta because the gold and silver medalists in his category were unable to attend and he scored high enough points as the bronze finisher.
Moreno will also be stepping in at nationals because Armijo is unable to attend. Moreno will be demonstrating his skill with nunchaku technique, which is a traditional Okinawan martial arts weapon form.
Other students who competed on behalf of the UNM-Gallup team included:
- Harry Tabaha, a CCTE multi-vocational service occupations student, in the high school Customer Service category.
- Kiefer Yazzie, a UNM-G cosmetology student, in the college Customer Service category.
- Jade Buffalohead-Ashcraft, a McKinley Academy student; Kyria Garcia, a McKinley Academy student; and Nigel Joe, a CCTE health careers student, as a team in the high school Prepared Speech category.
- Jose Arreguin, a CCTE welding technology student, Isaiah Nuckols, a CCTE welding technology student; and Kayliegh Begay in the high school Welding Fabrication category.
- Payton Charley, a UNM-G welding technology student, in the college Welding Sculpture category.
- Miles Craig, a UNM-G welding technology student, in the college Welding Sculpture category.
- Ryan Descheny, a UNM-G welding technology student, in the college Welding Sculpture category.
Jarvis, who works as the principal of the CCTE program at UNM-Gallup, said SkillsUSA’s mission is to connect students to employment by helping them develop workplace skills, personal skills and job-specific skills.
She said competitions are just one part of SkillsUSA. It’s also about community service, leadership building and professional development.
McKinley Academy student Kayliegh Begay won the SkillsUSA New Mexico Pin Design Contest with this pin design, which features a painting of hot-air balloons above the red rocks near Churchrock, N.M., all set within the frame of a Route 66 sign.
“It’s a big step for kids to get up in front of an audience,” she said. “A lot of kids in our area haven’t done that. They do doubt themselves because they’ve been told for so many years, ‘You can’t. You won’t.’ I tell them, ‘Stop talking that negative self-talk. You are experts up there demonstrating your specific skill.’”
SkillsUSA co-advisor Frank Sanchez, who works as a tech analyst for UNM-G, added that the national SkillsUSA conference is also like a huge trade show where several industry businesses set up booths. He said it’s possible for students, who bring along their resumes, to get job offers right on the spot.
“When we got to nationals last year, the level of competition was so much higher, but I never once looked at our students and thought they're totally out of their depth,” Sanchez said. “I never felt like we were not in the running. I really looked at our students and said, ‘They're just as good as these other ones.’”
Brianna Begay, Dale and Brown all credited SkillsUSA and their advisors for setting them up for success at the competition and helping them to get out of their comfort zones and overcome their nerves and shyness.
They also recommended that more students get involved in SkillsUSA.
“Don’t be shy,” Brianna Begay said. “Express yourself. Opportunities come once in a lifetime, so put yourself out there.”
“It will really open your eyes and your mind so you can succeed in the future” Dale added.
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