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The technical path to success: Two DCHS seniors will put their skills to the test at a national competition after winning state titles

David Crockett’s Kaitlyn Runion, left, and John Hill, right, will each be competing in the National SkillsUSA Competition in Louisville, Kentucky next week as each was a state champion in their respective field.
David Crockett’s Kaitlyn Runion, left, and John Hill, right, will each be competing in the National SkillsUSA Competition in Louisville, Kentucky next week as each was a state champion in their respective field.

By COLLIN BROOKS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

In an era that is congested with college diplomas, some students are looking to add additional skills to stand out in the workforce.

David Crockett’s John Hill and Kaitlyn Runion are doing that by adding career-technical education classes to their resumes, and it has paid off. Runion won the SkillsUSA state championship in graphic communication, while Hill took home a the first place medal for programming a computer numerical control milling machine.

Those first place finishes earned them a spot in the SkillsUSA National Championships, where they will compete with other state champions that total up to 6,000 competitors in the 100 contests in 64 technical areas that will be held in Louisville, Kentucky from June 20-24.

Hill plans to continue his hands-on approach at a TCAT Center in Elizabethton, while Runion will be taking what she learned and applying it to a major of Early Childhood Education at Middle Tennessee State, but first both will try to bring home a national championship.

“I am nervous,” Runion admitted through a smile while taking a break from practicing on a nearby computer. “The state competition was sort of overwhelming because there were so many people and there are going to be all 50 states.”

Hill agreed with his classmate. Hill

“It’s going to be a new experience, I am excited and nervous because it’s a whole new level and everything is way bigger,” Miller said.

Runion got her start when she was intrigued by the opportunity to design a shirt for her Lady Pioneers soccer team.

“I started with that and then I just started playing around with it and designing stuff for the team,” she said.

She ended up designing three t-shirts for the team and discovered an appreciation for it.

“It’s fun having a skill like that,” Runion said. “You can use it for anything on an everyday basis.”

Hill was an athlete with hoop dreams, but he quickly found another love when he was introduced to Daniel Maupin’s shop class.

“I had no idea that I wanted to do this,” Hill said. “I came in playing basketball and that is all that I used to want to do. But I came in and took his (Daniel Maupin) class and I just wanted to learn more about it.”

Maupin has had multiple students participate in the state competition during his 13 years as  a machine shop and manufacturing teacher at David Crockett and he eagerly mentions them by name as he also adds that many of them now work at major manufacturing companies in the area.Runion

The teacher speaks highly of his most recent state champion pupil, who has worked hard to get to where he is now.

“John has worked really hard, he came in as a freshman and has come a really long way and really worked at it,” Maupin said. “Last year, he competed in the state competition and he did well, but he didn’t place and so he came back this year with a better understanding of what he needed to do and he got it done.”

Print shop teacher Dillon Roberts is entering his second year as a teacher at Crockett and he is a perfect two-for-two with state champions as he had Stephen Mitchell win the state competition last year.

“What we learn in here can be used in almost any area of work,” Roberts said. “Almost everyone is going to need marketing and a lot of people do layout and design work for their  job that they are going to have.”

At the print shop they do an array of things like make t-shirts, banners, decals and have even wrapped a trailer. There latest job was a window wrap that covers their large window. It has a graphic on the front and is tented in the back and will be something that they will install at a lot of the Washington County schools as a safety precaution.

Roberts said that the only other computer graphics classes that he knows of that happen in the area take place at Sullivan Central. Dobyns-Bennett use to have a program, but they ended it recently.

One of the obstacles to having career and technical programs are the high cost of the equipment. Maupin estimated there to be well over $1 million worth of equipment inside of his machine shop alone.

“This building probably houses more expense than most any in the county and the reason for that is just the equipment that is installed,” Maupin said. “They’ve entrusted us with a pretty good thing that we have to take care of and we are extremely grateful.”

Maupin and Roberts are also able to generate a bit of income for the school system and their programs by doing small jobs for people.

“We aren’t trying to cut a business out, however, it is an opportunity for us to make a little money and for somebody to help the school out,” Maupin said. “It can save the system a little bit of money and give us the money that we need to buy things for our program.”

And as for the thought that the college path is the only path for students now-a-days, Maupin said that he slightly disagrees with that.

“I’ve got a big disconnect with the college atmosphere and it’s nothing against people that go to college, I’m not opposed to that” Maupin said. “But there is good and bad to everything. I think you go to college and spend a bunch of money on a job that may or may not be there.

“And people do that thinking they will get the big money when they get out and what they aren’t told is that there is only a small percentage of those jobs.”