June 28, 2022
Last Friday, thousands of students, mentors, teachers, industry leaders, and family members filed into the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia (where the Atlanta Hawks play their NBA games) to watch the winners of the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference get their awards.
Among the students were Zane Horton, Christopher Rodriguez, and Walter Armijo, who made up CNM’s Welding Fabrication team. When it was time to announce the award for their competition, the trio learned they were one of the top three teams and were called to the center stage. The announcer then gave the bronze award to one team and the silver to another. At that point all three knew they were bringing home gold.
“It was like a dream, it was totally surreal,” Zane says. “It took my breath away. But to be honest, I also knew we had a good chance because of all the work we had put in.”
Trenten Moore, a CNM Welding instructor and the advisor for the team, says he also knew they were set up for success.
“Those guys have been eating, sleeping, and breathing welding for a long time now and it paid off,” he says. “I’m really proud of these guys and how much time and effort they’ve put into their trade so that they could compete at a national level.”
With this win, plus the bronze medal CNM student Armando Urias won in the Welding-Individual competition this year, the CNM Welding department has taken home more than 10 national SkillsUSA medals since 2015. CNM Welding student Alyssa Copeland narrowly missed bringing home a medal this year, finishing fifth in the Welding Sculpture competition. CNM dual credit student Clay Rexroad placed 13th in the high school welding competition.
“If you look at our success over the past several years it shows that CNM is offering training at a high level,” Trenten says.
Team member Christopher Rodriguez was also thrilled to win, but knew even before they arrived at the competition that the team would do well.
“When you prepare for so long, you know you’re going to execute,” he says. “We were really excited to win, but to be honest it wasn’t a surprise.”
More than 6,500 outstanding career and technical education students from across the country –– all state contest winners –– competed hands-on in 108 different trade, technical and leadership fields.
The Welding Fabrication competition took over six hours and in that time the students were told to build a mobile welding curtain base and post. CNM executed at the highest level, and now their base, along with the bases made by other students, will be used during welding competitions in years to come.
Student Walter Armijo says that while he and his teammate were working it was fun to hear spectators, including several people from the welding industry, call them a well-oiled machine. That gave them confidence and kept them going.
“We trusted each other going to the competition so we weren’t nervous at all,” he says. “We trained and worked hard and in the end we executed perfectly.”
In all, 11 CNM students competed at the National SkillsUSA event. They qualified by winning the gold medal at the New Mexico SkillsUSA competition held at CNM in April, when Career Technical Education students from around the state vied to qualify for nationals.
The outstanding CNM students below also represented the college exceptionally well in their fields:
Ryan Carson, Aviation Maintenance, 7th place
Marcus Kessler, Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning, 8th place
John Caldwell, Cabinet Making, 9th place
Ryan Schuster, Diesel Equipment Technology, 14th place
Damian Rodriguez, Diesel Equipment Technology, 16th place in high school category
At the SkillsUSA competition, students work against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting and culinary arts. Contests are run with the help of industry, trade associations and labor organizations, and test competencies are set by industry.