Having had the opportunity to participate in the 2009 SkillsUSA National Conference, I am sure, was an honor for us all. The week of June 21st – 27th was an experience that I will never forget.  I learned so much about myself, my goals, and what determined ultimate success. During the exciting time, we faced teams like our own, who had been chosen to represent their schools, their communities, and most importantly their states. cory01

I never imagined that four years of high school and countless hours of video production would have ended in an opportunity to participate nationally. After achieving 1st place in our state competition, we had only sixty-five days to prepare and practice for the 2009 SkillsUSA National Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.  In addition, who would have ever thought that four different, unique and I must say, modestly talented students from a small town in Conyers, Georgia would have placed within the top ten in our country. Better yet, ranking 4th in the nation for Broadcast News Production.

The road trip to Kansas City was a long and exhausting one that took about ten hours, but well worth it in the end. Riding in the car with four other people and over a dozen of bags was not an ideal trip, but nonetheless, we made it. Our initial plan for the road trip was to stay awake, talk, watch movies, and play car games; but all of us, minus our advisor, managed to sleep just about the entire way there.

cory04After unpacking and unwinding, we met the rest of the Georgia competitors in the ballroom to take the Professional Development Test. This test would be used as a tie breaker in the event that two teams ended with the same score. That was the start of giving our best! 

On Tuesday morning, we woke up just in time for orientation and spent countless hours roaming the streets in search of the hottest spots to be. During that time, we were lucky enough to grab a few free t-shirts and souvenir bags. In addition, and needless to say, we probably endured some of the worst heat known to mankind. Now, I was born and raised in Georgia; but I have never in my eighteen years of living experienced heat that was so hot. And honestly, it was so hot, I could literally taste it. Yes, it was just that intense.

Fortunately for us on Wednesday there was nothing planned on the agenda in relation to ourcory02 competition that day. You may be wondering what that meant for us. Well, that meant that we had some free time to spare and we took advantage of it. We had a unique opportunity to take a tour with Fox 4’s Stephanie Hockridge and John Holt at WDAF-TV, in Kansas City.
The tour itself was absolutely phenomenal. John Holt, who co-anchors Fox 4’s 5pm and 9pm newscast, took time out of his work day and guided us on the tour. He gave us a complete in-depth look of all angles in correlation to broadcast news. We toured the studio, walked through the control room, checked out their editing bays, and at the same time, obtained a first-hand experience of life in the broadcast news industry. It was a day that I will never forget!

At last, Thursday was our competition day. My roommate and I woke with an overwhelming feeling of anxiety. This was it! This was the day that we had poured our souls into and prepared for with countless hours of practice. Though we felt anxious, we knew that we were not going to let this stop us from giving one hundred percent. Doing well was not just a personal goal; it was a team goal.

cory03After breakfast, we picked up our news stories in which we then had four hours to prepare our 3 minute newscast. Within those three minutes, we put together a combination of local, national, and sports stories. After all was said and done, we had given our best and there was nothing left to do, but wait for the results. So instead of moping around, we took a trip to one of Kansas City’s most prestigious theme parks, called “Worlds of Fun”. Surprisingly, it was extremely relaxing and a great way to allow time to pass by; instead of focusing on what we could have done differently during competition.

The ambience of Friday was somewhat different from the past days we had experienced.  A debriefing was scheduled that morning and we were hoping to leave there with an idea of how well we had done as a team, but unfortunately, we did not. We had to wait it out! And a grueling ten hours later we learned that we did not place within the top three. I don’t think that there was ever a moment that we thought that would be the outcome. Though anxious and nervous, we were still confident before and after our performance. In the end, like countless others, we were crushed and for the first time ever on the trip, we were silenced.  

The 2009 SkillsUSA National Conference made me realize that dreams are meant to be followed and goals are meant to be reached; despite any outcome. Everyone has the determination to succeed and the will to overcome all odds. Whether you are competing in carpentry, occupational health and safety, public speaking, or even firefighting, trying to prepare yourself for the unexpected, is absolutely impossible. Plus, it is the unexpected that makes you better at what you do! So, take chances and make sure to live life to the fullest. In the end, just remember that everything happens for a reason.