DCTC Shines at SkillsUSA State Championships

DCTC Shines at SkillsUSA
Some of the DCTC medal winners (left to right) Jeff Siltala-Choban, Ben Jackson, Kristin Vanevenhoven, Joyce Ludwig, Jessica Jackson, Michael Doyle, (DCTC President Ron Thomas), Samantha Hrbek, Lorelei Rein, Louise Schultz, Paul Lampland, Stephanie Serres

Students bring home 11 gold, nine silver & four bronze medals

Sixty-six students from Dakota County Technical College competed in the 45th Annual Minnesota SkillsUSA Championship Conference at the Double Tree by Hilton Bloomington Minneapolis South in Bloomington, Minn., March 23–25, 2012. Encouraged and counseled by 25 faculty and staff advisors, the students brought home 11 gold, nine silver and four bronze medals along with six honorable mentions—the most in DCTC history.

“DCTC students really do have what it takes to place in top-level leadership contests,” said Anna Voight, assistant director of Student Life. Voight helped promote student participation and also served as advisor. “Our students and advisors put forth an A+ effort—and that showed at the awards ceremony.”

DCTC President Ronald E. Thomas, Ph.D., strongly supports student participation in SkillsUSA. Thomas notes that Minnesota high schools, colleges, businesses, industries and state agencies regard SkillsUSA Minnesota as the premier organization for developing student leaders with superb technical, academic and employability skills.

Hilary Sharp“I couldn’t be more proud of how our students performed at the SkillsUSA Minnesota State Championships,” Thomas said. “DCTC and SkillsUSA work together to create opportunities for our students, faculty and industry partners through leadership training, volunteerism opportunities, competitions and conferences. By building student self-confidence and channeling student talent, SkillsUSA works with our college to help prepare our graduates for the high-wage, high-skill, high-demand jobs that enhance the state’s economy.”

Hilary Sharp, 25, of Apple Valley, Minn., competed in Computer Programming and Prepared Speech, taking a gold medal in both competitions. Sharp is majoring in Software Development at the college. She found that the events weren’t as intimidating as she had expected.

“The speaking competitions were only in front of two judges, so that wasn’t bad,” she said. “The computer programming was a crunch to get everything done on time, but I enjoyed it. It’s what I’ve been doing for class for two years now, so it was natural.”

Sharp also pointed out how willing DCTC faculty and staff were to help students succeed. “Anna Voight and Mike Opp were there every step of the way to encourage me and make sure I had what I needed,” she said. “Mark Grant took the time to help me with my speech (I had no clue!). And James Carr made sure he answered any Java questions I had. There are so many options for colleges in the area, and I think many of us do wonder at times if we chose the right school. This experience was another reassurance that I chose the best.”

Dean Mike Opp with Assistant Student Life Director Anna VoightDean Mike Opp oversees Technical Careers and Transportation Careers at the college. He has been involved with SkillsUSA for many years and knows how important a role the organization plays in student academic and professional development.

“I am very proud of our Student Life Center staff for helping bring SkillsUSA at DCTC to all corners of our campus,” said Opp, who also serves as a SkillsUSA Minnesota advisor. “My wholehearted thanks to our college faculty for supporting SkillsUSA in their individual programs and courses. Going the extra mile through active involvement in student organizations adds real quality to their programs and makes a difference in terms of student achievement. SkillsUSA at DCTC would not be the success it is without strong faculty support.”

Gold medal winners will advance to represent Minnesota at the SkillsUSA National Championships in Kansas City, Mo., June 23–27, 2012. The theme for the SkillsUSA national competition 2011–2012 school year is “SkillsUSA: Champions at Work Skilled and Motivated.”

Kristin Vanevenhoven with Anna VoightKristin Vanevenhoven is a veteran competitor. A Graphic Design Technology major graduating May 2012, Vanevenhoven took first place in the Pin Design and T-Shirt Design competitions. She will go on to compete in Kansas City. Her pin design is one of six pins, three high school designs and three college designs, competing to become the Minnesota state trading pin at the national conference.

Last year, Vanevenhoven took first in the Advertising Design competition at the state level. At the nationals, she took fourth place. She was excited about representing DCTC again this year at the Minnesota championships.

“The SkillsUSA Minnesota championships present an excellent opportunity to see how you stack up against the most skilled student competitors in the state,” Vanevenhoven said. “Because of my positive experience last year, I was motivated to recruit other students to take part in the competition. Two students that I recruited ended up taking first place in their competition.”

Jeff Siltala-Choban with wife, SaraJeff Siltala-Choban, also a Graphic Design Technology major scheduled to graduate in May, took first place in Advertising Design in his first competition. He’s also heading to Kansas City with plans to make it a road trip with his wife, Sara.

“I love to compete,” Choban said. “For me, second place might as well be last place. One thing I liked about the SkillsUSA competition was that all competitors start out on equal terms. You really get to test the edge of what your experience and education have given you.”

SkillsUSA Minnesota

SkillsUSA Minnesota belongs to a national organization that serves more than a quarter million student members annually in some 14,700 chapters and 54 state and territorial associations, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. SkillsUSA Minnesota has offered leadership opportunities to more than 200,000 student members since 1967, with a current annual membership exceeding 3,000. There are chapters in 29 technical colleges and 50 high schools or cooperative centers, with the potential to serve many more.

Every spring, approximately 350 business and industry leaders get together and present nearly 70 skill and leadership contests they prepared for SkillsUSA student members from across the state.  The entry-level, hands-on skill contests are evaluated by the same industry leaders who prepare them. The competitions are based on industry-driven occupational skill standards.

Industry donates many thousands of dollars in prizes in the form of scholarships, tools, reference manuals and training aids for winners and their schools. Business partners work throughout the school year to plan the competitive events and many of them hire their new employees right off the competition floor. First place winners from each division in most contests are offered the opportunity to proceed to the SkillsUSA national competition.

DCTC Gold Medal Winners
  • Prepared Speech: Hilary Sharp |Software Development
  • Preschool Teaching: Lorelei Rein | Early Childhood and Youth Development
  • Photography: Alex Just | Photography
  • Advertising Design: Jeff Siltala-Choban | Graphic Design Technology
  • Job Interview: Stephanie Serres | Photography
  • Computer Programming: Hilary Sharp | Software Development
  • Industrial Motor Control: Seth Hagan | Electrical Construction and Maintenance Technology
  • Entrepreneurship (team): Michael Doyle | Nanoscience Technology
  • Entrepreneurship (team): Samantha Hrbek | Individualized Studies
  • Entrepreneurship (team): Ben Jackson | Landscape Horticulture
  • Entrepreneurship (team): Joyce Ludwig | Entrepreneurship/Small Business
  • T-Shirt Design: Kristin Vanevenhoven | Graphic Design Technology
  • Automotive Service Technology: Aaron Zimdars | GM ASEP
  • Pin Design: Kristin Vanevenhoven | Graphic Design Technology
DCTC Silver Medal Winners
  • Related Technical Math: Michael Doyle | Nanoscience Technology
  • Masonry: Vincent Frank | Concrete and Masonry
  • Preschool Teaching Assistant: Jessica Jackson | Early Childhood and Youth Development
  • Photography: John Other Medicine Jr. | Photography
  • Job Interview: Michael Doyle: Nanoscience Technology
  • Computer Maintenance: Leonard Poppenhagen: Undeclared
  • Customer Service: Joyce Ludwig | Entrepreneurship/Small Business
  • Promotional Bulletin Board: Melanie Coil | Medical Assistant
  • Diesel Technology: Mike Grimes | Heavy Duty Truck Technology
DCTC Bronze Medal Winners
  • Photography: Kellie VonBank | Photography
  • Advertising Design: Paul Lampland | Graphic Design Technology
  • Industrial Motor Control: Brent Johnson | Electrical Construction and Maintenance Technology
  • Medical Terminology: Louise Schultz | Medical Administrative Assistant/Healthcare Documentation Specialist
DCTC Honorable Mention
  • T-Shirt Design: Kate Fox | Graphic Design Technology
  • Automotive Service Technology: Gary Braun | GM ASEP
  • Automotive Refinishing: Mike Seidow | Auto Body Collision Technology
  • Collision Repair: Mike Siedow | Auto Body Collision Technology
  • Diesel Technology: Brad Vollmer | Heavy Duty Truck Technology
  • Welding: Cody Furlong | Welding Technology
DCTC SkillsUSA Minnesota Advisors
  • Mark Brantner | Faculty | Automotive Technician
  • Jeff Copeland |  Faculty | Automotive Technician
  • Robert Engberg | Faculty | Automotive Technician
  • Mark Hickman | Faculty | GM ASEP
  • Timothy McCluskey | Faculty | GM ASEP
  • Scott Logan | Faculty | Auto Body Collision Technology
  • Gerry Rainford | Faculty | Auto Body Collision Technology
  • Roger Gartner | Faculty | Heavy Construction Equipment Technology
  • Michael Buck | Faculty | Electrical Construction Maintenance Technology
  • Richard Otteson | Faculty | Heavy Duty Truck Technology
  • Kenneth Klassen | Faculty | Heavy Duty Truck Technology
  • Dan Ruzicka | Faculty | Heavy Construction Equipment Technology
  • Ronald Gruenes | Faculty | Electrical Construction and Maintenance Technology
  • Bruce Hansberger | Faculty | Electrical Construction and Maintenance Technology
  • Christine Pigsley | Faculty | Entrepreneur/Small Business
  • Peter Skoro | Faculty | Graphic Design Technology
  • Paul Geisler | Faculty | Concrete and Masonry
  • Candace Carlstrom | Adjunct Faculty | Medical Terminology
  • Mark Grant, | Faculty | Speech Communication
  • Darrell Tangen | Faculty | Photography
  • Dawn Braa | Faculty | Early Childhood and Youth Development
  • Tim Felch | Faculty | Welding Instructor
  • Josh Heibel | Faculty | Welding Instructor
  • Anna Voight and Mike Opp also served as advisors
  • Student Life Assistant Laura McGlauchlen worked behind the scenes, providing vital administrative support

DCTC at SkillsUSA State Championships Gallery

Photos courtesy of Anna Voight, Jessica Jackson, Lorelei Rein, Dawn Braa and Kristin Vanevenhoven


For more information about SkillsUSA Minnesota at DCTC, contact:
  • Mike Opp
    Dean of Transportation Careers and Technical Careers
    SkillsUSA Minnesota Advisor
  • Anna Voight
    Assistant Director of Student Life
    SkillsUSA Minnesota Advisor