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SkillsUSA Officers Grow Enthusiasm for Giving

SkillsUSA Massachusetts students and teachers hold a friendly game of competition to gather record-breaking donations for local food pantries.
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Whittier Tech’s SkillsUSA Officers. From L to R: Isasis George, Ashlyn Sullivan, Kate Velasquez, Lauren Jiolo, Marisa Behl, Madison Gosse, Myles Rochon, Brogan Arivella and Jaidyn Craig. Photo courtesy of Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School.

When it comes to collecting food for families in need, students at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School in Haverhill, Mass., deserve a gold medal.

SkillsUSA chapter officers — along with advisors Jane Moskevitz, Bruce Boisselle and Jonathan Warne — spearheaded this year’s canned food drive, which started in September. Though the food drive has been in place for many years, the students worked harder than ever to increase enthusiasm in the school after learning that food security increased in Massachusetts due to the pandemic. “Food security” is defined as “the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food,” and in one survey of parents and guardians in 14 Massachusetts school districts, 46% of respondents rated their food security as “low” to “very low” at some point during the pandemic.

The project soon grew to become a school-wide effort, with whole classrooms and individual students stepping up to help with the cause and gather donations.

SkillsUSA chapter president Jaidyn Craig, a junior studying Medical Assisting, used morning announcements to share facts about food insecurity with fellow students. Maddy Dawkins, a junior studying Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD), became the student organizer, collecting student donations and shopping for additional food items.

CAD instructors Scott Robertson and Tristan Belanger introduced the canned food drive to create a sense of pride for their shop; Design and Visual Communications students, led by instructor Cate Cashman, designed and created posters to promote the project. With the support of the CAD Drafting class, they placed the posters in every classroom and hallway. The technology wing of the school became involved, too; under the guidance of instructor Bob Beaton, students in Engineering, Electronics/Robotics and CAD created window displays. Finally, the Health Assisting team joined in, with instructor Kimberly Malynn creating a tower display of ramen.

The CAD students collected 1,890 cans and non-perishable items (averaging 36 items per student), the health students collected 1,192 items, and the engineering students collected 1,165 items. In all, Whittier students collected 6,973 canned goods and non-perishable items, three times more food than the school typically raises for the project! All of the items were donated to the food pantries in the school’s 11 sending communities.

“The canned food drive was a great opportunity for students to see the SkillsUSA Framework in action and application,” explains Health Assisting instructor, cooperative education liaison and lead SkillsUSA advisor Moskevitz. “Students from all the shops were so engaged in this service project that it really brought us together as a Whittier community and illustrated just how much we can accomplish when we work together.”

“We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the Whittier community raising three times the amount of canned goods typical for our yearly school drive,” SkillsUSA president Craig says.

Adail Saenz, a junior in the CAD program, says, “I think it went more than well. I never expected for CAD to have the most cans, never mind having nearly 2,000 cans! This helps out a lot of families and that’s what’s most important.”

“I am so proud of our students, who were willing to take time out of their day and money out of their pockets to conduct a drive of this size and scope,” superintendent Maureen Lynch said. “This is an excellent example of how students can support their community in ways beyond the trade skills they develop.”

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