Waco Auto Collision and Management Technology SkillsUSA

(WACO, Texas) – Five Texas State Technical College students at the Waco campus will soon put their skills up against the nation’s best.

The 58th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference will be held June 20-24 in Atlanta, Georgia. Competing will be Michael Lopez, of Taylor, in Facilithon; Luis Luna, of Stephenville, in Collision Repair; Gino Martinez, of Waco, in Automotive Refinishing Technology; Chris Martinez,, of Marlin, in Plumbing; and Carlos Palacios, of Waco, in Collision Damage Appraisal.

“To be able to witness students achieve greatness through SkillsUSA with what they have learned here at TSTC is truly a remarkable thing,” said Raleigh Derks, TSTC’s Waco campus coordinator for SkillsUSA and an instructor in the Welding Technology program.

Martinez is a graduate of La Vega High School. He is scheduled to graduate in spring 2023 from TSTC with two associate degrees from the Auto Collision and Management Technology program.

He works as an automotive painter, which he credits to helping him prepare for his contest.

“The competition will make me better at what I do,” he said. “I want to put my name out there and get some experience.”

Palacios is a graduate of University High School. He is scheduled to graduate in December from TSTC with two associate degrees from the Auto Collision and Management Technology program.

This is the first year that Palacios has participated in SkillsUSA. He worked with Kyle Pokraka, an instructor in TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program, to prepare for the national contest.

“There will be people from all over,” Palacios said. “I know what I am going to go for and will stay focused.”

Philip McKee, an instructor in TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program, said he is happy that three of the program’s students will compete at the national level.

“Our students work hard to gain the skills necessary to not only compete at SkillsUSA, but to take these skills with them moving into the workforce,” he said. “It says a lot about the quality of our department — not only the quality of students we have, but the facility we have in our department.”

SkillsUSA is a professional organization 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 competitive events, ranging from 3D Visualization and Animation to Welding Sculpture.

The students qualified for the national conference by placing first in their categories at the SkillsUSA Texas Postsecondary Leadership and Skills Conference held in April in Houston.

For more information on SkillsUSA, go to skillsusa.org

For more information on TSTC, go to tstc.edu.

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