WOODLAND — This year, the Woodland High School SkillsUSA team organized a food drive for the Woodland Action Center food bank, collecting a record 850 items.
In addition to helping collect and sort the many donated food items, the club compiled and printed a free book of recipes for customers of the food bank to use to make healthy, home-cooked meals from the ingredients that were donated.
Kimberly Miller, the life-skills teacher and SkillsUSA adviser at Woodland High School, helped the students organize the record food drive at the school.
“The school holds food drives every year, but in previous years, we only collected 100-150 items,” Miller said. “This year, the SkillsUSA team decided to organize the drive, coming up with ways to motivate the students to really participate which resulted in a record collection.”
The students came up with ideas like throwing pizza parties and having each grade earn points toward the annual school competition, inspiring their classmates to bring in donated food items.
The SkillsUSA club teamed up with the WE Charity, a nonprofit formerly known as Free The Children, to pick up food items from community members each day. Club members tallied and took inventory of all the items at the end of each collection day. Following the food drive, the SkillsUSA students compiled healthy meal recipes for customers of the Woodland Action Center food bank to use with the donated food. The students printed a free recipe book in both English and Spanish to help all members of the Woodland community come up with new ways to create healthy meals for their families.
SkillsUSA is an extracurricular program and club for high school students offering the opportunity to compete in 100 different events. The events focus on personal skills, technical skills and workplace skills including computer and technology literacy; service orientation; professional development; public speaking; culinary competitions and many more.
In addition to the competitions, Miller teaches her students the value of giving back to the community they live in.
“Our SkillsUSA team organizes community service projects both within the school and around the community which the SkillsUSA team takes part in,” Miller said. “The kids put in a lot of time and effort to achieve great things.”
The club offers a lot of challenge for its members.
“I joined SkillsUSA thinking it would be fun and easy,” said Lidia Valenzuela, a junior who’s also this year’s club president. “Once we started competing, it was still fun, but it’s certainly not easy.”
Many students join after taking classes from Miller.
“I’ve always loved to bake and Mrs. Miller talked about SkillsUSA the second day I was taking Creative Chef with her,” said Jared Snow, a freshman who joined this year. “I want to develop my culinary arts skills and the club is really inviting with a lot of cool kids.”
Stefanee Baker, a senior, joined SkillsUSA after taking Early Childhood from Miller.
“I found out that I love teaching kids, so I joined this year to practice more; I want to become a social worker after I graduate,” Baker said.
The club attracts students from all walks of life. Brooke Schimmel, a sophomore, is home-schooled and takes part in SkillsUSA to develop more social ties with kids her age. This year, Schimmel is competing in Extemporaneous Speech, the first student in the club to do so.
“Mrs. Miller convinced me to compete in the event, and although I’m nervous I know it will be a good experience,” Schimmel said. “SkillsUSA is so much fun, and helps me develop the skills I will need in the workplace so it gives me an edge for my future.”
Miller found out about the SkillsUSA program from teachers in other districts around the area more than six years ago, and decided to offer the club at the high school, serving as its adviser.
“When we first started, we only took part in one competition, and now we compete in restaurant service, job interview, community service, chapter excellence, medical terminology, pin design, extemporaneous speech, job demo and so much more,” she said. “I’m here a lot, and I make the commitment because I see the difference the program makes for the kids.”
Regional competitions take place later in February with qualifying students competing at the state competition in April followed by the national competition in June.
“I love taking the kids to the different competitions because a lot of our students haven’t seen much of the country outside of Woodland,” Miller said. “It’s great getting to see the kids experience different areas of the state and throughout the country.”
Students interested in joining SkillsUSA can attend any of the meetings which take place on Thursdays during the Advisory Period at Woodland High School. They can also reach out to Kimberly Miller via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the SkillsUSA website at www.skillsusa.org for more information.