Salt Lake Community College students represented their school well at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
Among them are Betsy Hijazi and Andrew Wernick, who together won the national championship and a gold medal in the web design category.
“It was surreal, we absolutely could not believe that we won,” says Hijazi.
SkillsUSA is a national non-profit organization that helps prepare students for careers in skilled service and technical fields. Students from across the nation gathered in Louisville last month to compete in over 100 different fields.
“I went into the competition wanting to challenge myself. I knew my skills could be stronger, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to find out what I could accomplish,” says Hijazi.
The web design competition pairs two students together, one designer and one coder, to create a professional, real-world product. Competitors are judged by a panel of professionals who have experience with the arts and web design, but a perfect project wasn’t the only criterion the judges were focused on.
“We learned that the national competition was not just about the finished product,” says Hijazi.
SkillsUSA judges evaluated a variety of categories, including coding, design, dress, resume and professionalism.
“We went into Nationals knowing that we could excel in our professionalism, with our resumes, and with our dress. We expected that other competitors could have stronger design and coding skills, so we wanted to make sure we put our best foot forward in all areas,” says Hijazi.
The attention to detail in every category helped push Hijazi and Wernick ahead of their competitors and place first in the competition.
Winning at the national level is an experience that neither Hijazi or Wernick will ever forget.
“I truly did not expect to place,” says Hijazi. “When they called third place, Andrew and I looked at each other with a little disappointment, but it wasn’t unexpected. Then they called second, and it was okay, it just made me want to try harder next time.
“Then they said, ‘first place, gold, Utah,’ and Andrew and I looked at each other and screamed.”
Hijazi and Wernick both hope that next year more SLCC students will get involved in the SkillsUSA program and more gold medals can be won.