Four of the seven Elmira District Secondary School students who took part in the 2017 Skills Ontario Competition in Toronto last week came home with medals.
The event is the largest skilled trades and technology competition in Canada, with 2,300 elementary, secondary, and post-secondary students competing in trades and technology contests. A broad range of skills and careers represented from across the manufacturing, transportation, construction, service, and technology sectors where students competed for gold, silver, and bronze medals.
From EDSS, Hailey Armstrong earned a silver medal in the floristry contest, Quinn Young and Shawntanna Atkinson won gold in the horticulture and landscape team category, and Walker Schott earned gold in the plumbing contest.
“Whether they were medaled or not, I tell them every time, count this up as a wonderful experience you had to be able to work with the industry representative, you used this day to find out as much about yourself and also, for that matter, what it is that interests you at this point and build on that,” said Randy Dyck, head of the tech. department and one of the two supervising teachers for the competition from EDSS.
Armstrong , a first-time competitor bloomed in the floristry category. The Grade 11 student credits her environmental science teacher (Mrs. Gaudet) for recognizing her potential.
“She pushed me (to do it) and it paid off,” said Armstrong. “I just had a knack for it because it runs through the family – my mom does it, my dad does it. I just kind of have a knack for it.”
Leading up to the competition, Armstrong says she watched videos so she knew what to expect when she got there, she also had guidance from a local florist who helped to teach her the trade.
The floristry portion of the competition took place over one day with fixed times to complete arrangements. Each competitor was given a bundle of flowers that needed to spread over the entire day.
Armstrong said luck was on her side with her flower allotment.
“I was fortunate enough to get autumn colours, reds, oranges, and all of that so I was really happy to get that because if I was to get married I would think autumn wedding would be the best, because my favourite season is autumn, and so I was really ecstatic and all together you could definitely see the different colours all together over all as an autumn theme,” said Armstrong.
“Our hope as always is that they have ended up with a great experience, very fulfilling, and you know we will see what next year brings,” said Dyck.
Returning competitors Atkinson and Young competed against each other last year, but with graduation and other commitments the duo joined together for this year, and it paid off.
“There was an ongoing joke last year that we were the dream team,” said Young.
After a hiccup with their drill, the dream team glided through tasks with ease building a retaining wall with coping and protruding patio, a mini deck, zen garden, grass square, and trees and shrubs, all in a 10 by 10 area to sweep the competition.
Atkinson will be going to Fanshawe College in the fall to study landscape design, while Young will be returning to school while congruently working in landscape.
Dyck says he is extremely proud of the students they put forward and their achievements over the skills competition.
“The feedback that we have got, the exuberance that they have, all of that as really gratifying. To see that and certainly proud of how well they represented the board and themselves at an event that challenges every part of who they are and what they know.”