A senior at Greenwood Community High School had just three hours to show what he had learned during the past two years.

Billy Clements worked to paint a fender on a car, then hurried to sand down a scratch on a fender and get it ready for another paint job.

After that, he had to take a 24-question test quizzing him on the knowledge it takes to repair a car after it has been in an accident.

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His work paid off. He advanced to a statewide competition April 11.

Twenty-four Central Nine Career Center students (including 16 from Johnson County) will compete at the state competition of SkillsUSA, a national contest for students who are studying a trade, such as culinary arts, construction or auto service technology.

Those who placed in the top five earn a chance to compete at the state level. The top person in each category at state will earn the right to go to nationals.

Winners in some categories get scholarships. In some cases, a top placing at SkillsUSA also can lead to a job.

But mainly students are eager to compete because they want to test their skills against other students in the state who are studying the same trades they are, students said.

“I wanted to see where I stood with everyone else,” said Skye Hunt, a senior at Greenwood Community High School, who placed in commercial baking.

Hunt had to bake chocolate chip cookies, make a pumpkin pie from scratch, make jalapeno cornbread, roll out braided bread and decorate a two-layer cake — all in four hours.

Most students at high schools can test their competitive edge in a sport or by joining an academic team. SkillsUSA gives trade students a chance to show their stuff against students in their region, state and possibly at nationals, said Edward Callico, a automotive teacher at Central Nine.

“It gives them a more realistic version of how they are doing,” he said. “Most of your employers will place a very high value on students who competed in SkillsUSA.”

Callico encourages his students to compete. He said the experience they gain while competing is invaluable.

“I definitely encourage my students to get involved in it,” he said.

Now that students have made it past regionals, some are practicing for state.

Some teachers carve out a little time in class to work on what they might be asked to do at state. Hunt finds time between lessons at Central Nine to work on decorating cakes.

For the most part, preparing for state is done in the classroom, Callico said. What they would need to know are skills that are automatically taught during regular lessons, he said.

“I don’t teach to the competition. I teach to what they will need to know in real life,” he said.

At a glance

Here are the students who will compete in the state competition of SkillsUSA.

Center Grove High School

Billy Skinner, junior, diesel service technology

Cody Montgomery, senior, diesel service technology

Grant Kane, auto collision repair, senior

Franklin Community High School

Logan Voris, junior, diesel service technology

Indian Creek High School

Cole Setser, senior, precision machining

Nathan Bowman, senior, construction trades

Greenwood Community High School

Billy Clements, senior, auto collision repair

Skye Hunt, senior, commercial baking

Connor Galovic, senior, construction trades

Brian Breeden, senior, computer programming

Whiteland Community High School

Mark Shultz, senior, precision machining

Tyler Johnson, junior, precision machining

Trevor Kress, junior, computer programming

Charles Masheck, senior, computer programming

Kyle Pavel, sophomore, construction trades

Gavin Winters, junior, construction trades

Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at mkritsch@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2770.