Tue, July 16

Showcasing skills in national contest

Mingus Students that participated in the SkillsUSA Championships were Scott Griffin, Conrado Medina, Jimmy Gundelach and Luke Hunt.

In June, nine Mingus Union High School students attended the SkillsUSA Championships sponsored by Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA), a showcase for the best career and technical students in the nation.

"Six had never been out of the state," said Building Trades instructor Dave Dumas who chaperoned the trip in Kansas City. "We're just trying to get kids excited and we wanted to reward them for a year of hard work."

With a $1,200 price tag per student, students were ready to earn Mingus some national honors after earning a few gold in the statewide competition in April.

And as one of the two teams competing for the first time, Mingus builders returned with, "Well, let's just say we came back in the top 20," laughed Dumas.

A respectable 18th place out of 27.

"Yeah we messed up but we got back on track," admits student competitor Scott Griffin. "But next year I'm planning on taking my gold over there."

Careful – this year every student warned of the security measures at Sky Harbor set off the metal detectors.

But it was obviously worth the short delay because in Kansas City Mingus students mixed with others from around the country as well as the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Islands of Guam.

"Shoot, I've never been out of this state to get to know anybody," said Griffith whose travels have been limited to Las Vegas, Disneyland and family outings.

And none of those destinations have barbecue quite like Kansas City.

"We went to this famous rib place for lunch" describes Dumas. "There were pictures of famous people on the walls, presidents and movie stars. The sign in the parking lot said: Don't park here unless the armed attendant is here."

If that wasn't a treat in itself, the competition at Kansas City's H. Roe Bartle Hall and Municipal Auditorium gave Mingus students an opportunity to participate in a multi-million dollar event with 4,000 contestants.

A four-person team worked for 2.5 days building a 9x9 Kitchen with a 24-inch stem wall with red brick facing. Five other students, who had fared well in state competitions, also attended the event in order to gain experience for next year's contest.

"Thanks to everyone who has provided and continues to provide a very valuable learning experience for students in the Verde Valley," says Dumas who has directed the Mingus Building Trades program for the past three years.

"I didn't think I would be able to get into this in high school," says Griffin. "My father and grandfather were journeymen, it's what I enjoy. Building trades will help me throughout my entire life."

And next year he's going for the gold.