Dual-Enrolled ACE High School Grad Wins Gold at SkillsUSA

Alli Williams
Photo of SkillsUSA

Joseph Stevens shows off his gold medal award at the 2018 SkillsUSA Competition. Photo courtesy of ACE Charter High School.

Students describe Laure'L Santos' classes at the William N. Pennington Applied Technology Center as high energy, skill-focused, and very hands-on.

Santos is a Manufacturing Technology instructor in the Technical Sciences Division at Truckee Meadows Community College. Some of his classes are made up of high school students who are earning college credit through a dual enrollment program with the Academy for Career Education (ACE) Charter High School. This program is completely free to high school students, and they can earn 30+ college credits by the time they graduate.

One of these students, Joseph Stevens, was a part of Santos' class and dual-enrolled through ACE Charter High School.

Stevens graduated from ACE High School in the Spring, and went on to compete in the national SkillsUSA competition over the Summer, where he won the gold medal in the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Turning Specialist category.

"I knew he would do well and possibly had a chance to place, but was very excited when he won gold," Santos said. "In addition to taking classes in CNC machining, Joseph also worked part-time in a machine shop after school, so he also had an opportunity to gain on the job experience which helped him gain additional skills."

The SkillsUSA Competition—held June 23–29, in Louisville, Kentucky—is the largest skills competition in the world that showcases students' personal, workplace and technical skills that are grounded in academics.

Both high school and college students participate in the competition each year, and this year there were 21 students representing ACE High School at the regional level, with several going on the compete nationally.

Stevens was proud to take home the gold, not just for himself but as a representative of ACE High School. He is very grateful for the opportunities he had while a student, and says he feels well equipped to enter the workforce. Stevens prepared for the SkillsUSA competition through his coursework with Santos, as well as on-the-job work training.

"It wasn't really anything new to me, based on what I'd done in class and what the instructor helped me out with," said Stevens. "It felt really good to win the gold medal for ACE. I was proud that I could accomplish that."

Leigh Berdrow is the director at ACE High School. She is proud of Stevens' and the other students' accomplishments at the SkillsUSA competition, and sees the partnership with TMCC as a huge step in the right direction to building a skilled and experienced workforce for the New Nevada.

"What's really important is that these students are graduating from high school work-ready, with technical skills and college credits," Berdrow said. "The partnership between ACE High School and TMCC is a model example of how dual enrollment can work to help a student succeed in the workforce earlier in their education with training necessary for the jobs they are seeking."

There are two dual credit programs offered at ACE High School, including Advanced Machining and Manufacturing Technologies and Diesel Technologies.

Of the 2018 graduating class of 40 students at ACE High School, 16 earned CTE Endorsed Diplomas, 14 earned 30+ credit Certificates of Achievement from TMCC, several earned skilled certificates in welding. In total, the class of 2018 earned 861 college credits, which adds up to approximately $86,000 in tuition costs that were completely free for the students.

For Stevens, the skills he gained as a student have helped him transition into a career that he's both passionate about and experienced in. The training he received in class and on the job are important for his future career, and his gold medal win at SkillsUSA will prove his value to potential employers.

"A lot of job opportunities could open up for me," said Stevens. "My career path is set."

Visit TMCC's Jump Start Dual Credit Program online for more information; for more information about ACE High School, please contact them at 775-324-3900.