Atlanta, Georgia 59th annual SkillsUSA NLSC

(ATLANTA, Georgia) – Students and faculty members representing seven of Texas State Technical College’s 10 campuses traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, June 19, for this week’s 59th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference.

More than 20 students from the Brownwood, East Williamson County, Harlingen, Marshall, North Texas, Sweetwater and Waco campuses will compete against the nation’s best in events such as Aviation Maintenance, Cabinetmaking, Electronics Technology and Medical Math. The students became eligible to represent Texas by placing high enough at the SkillsUSA Texas Postsecondary Leadership and Skills Conference held in April in Houston.

TSTC’s students and faculty members joined representatives of other two-year colleges in Texas for a statewide meeting on Monday night at the Courtland Grand Hotel in downtown Atlanta. The group received cowboy hats that they will wear for the opening and closing ceremonies, state pins to trade, and SkillsUSA Texas shirts to wear.

Axel Torres, of Arlington, Texas, recently graduated from the Wind Energy Technology program at TSTC’s Sweetwater campus. He will compete in the Technical Math contest. He said taking a mental health break after graduating earlier this year has helped clear his head for the competition.

“When I am not struggling with anxiety, I am very ambitious and competitive,” Torres said. “When I heard about SkillsUSA, I wanted to participate.”

Austin Prunty, who grew up in Louisiana and now lives in Marshall, Texas, will compete in the Internet of Things and Smart Homes competition. He is studying Computer Networking and Systems Administration at TSTC’s Marshall campus.

“There’s a mix of excitement and nerves,” he said. “I’m confident in my skills, but there will be so many people there. I’m glad to have the opportunity to be here.”

Prunty also flew for the first time ever on Monday. Although he found being among the clouds mesmerizing, he experienced some anxiety when the plane touched down in Atlanta.

“The landing kind of scared me,” he said.

Zacarias Felipe, a resident of Graham, Texas, and a recent Building Construction Technology graduate from TSTC’s Waco campus, also flew for the first time. A flight attendant commemorated the occasion by giving Felipe a Southwest Airlines wings pin.

Felipe said it felt weird when his ears were popping while flying in the air.

He said he has been practicing for his Carpentry contest by working alongside his father.

“My goal is to get to know more people and win first place,” Felipe said.

One instructor has experience competing at the conference as a student.

Apolinar Ruiz, lead instructor in TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program at the East Williamson County campus, took part in 2016 and 2017 in machining contests and placed fourth both times. Now Ruiz is guiding Precision Machining Technology student Angel Brondel in the CNC 3-Axis Milling Programmer competition.

“It feels very different than how it did,” Ruiz said. “I need to train my student to get the first place I didn’t get.”

Orientations and contests begin Tuesday, June 20, and end Thursday, June 22, at the Georgia World Congress Center and Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center. All high school and postsecondary attendees, along with their faculty advisors, will attend the conference’s opening ceremony on Tuesday night at State Farm Arena.

The conference ends with the awards ceremony on Friday, June 23, at State Farm Arena.

SkillsUSA is a nonprofit professional organization founded in 1965 teaching employability, leadership and technical skills that can help middle school, high school and college students pursue successful careers and be part of a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA has more than 100 leadership, technical and trade competitions, ranging from Action Skill to Welding Sculpture.

For more information on SkillsUSA, go to

For more information on TSTC, go to

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