The motto for Skills USA is "Champions at Work," and the title certainly fits the 16 Chantilly Academy cosmetology students who recently qualified for the state competition in Roanoke.
They were among the 20 Academy cosmetology students who competed in 12 different events at district level — Feb. 8 at Hayfield High in hair and nails, and Feb. 12 in leadership skills (community service and spelling) at the Chantilly Academy.
Students who received gold and silver medals in hair and nails will go on to states, April 8-9, and leadership participants will also go to nationals, June 20-24, in Kansas City, Mo.
"IN THE SIX years I've been part of the Skills USA competition, this is the most that have qualified [from the Chantilly Academy] for states [in cosmetology]," said Academy cosmetology teacher Wayne White. "And being first-year students, it's a testimony to their character as young students."
For example, he said, Paige Salas — who won a silver medal in hair — is a first-year student who competed against second- and third-year students. Said White: "So for her to get second place against 25 other people was pretty impressive."
In addition, he said, "This is also the largest contingent of students — [26 overall in culinary arts, cosmetology and auto body and tech] — the Chantilly Academy has ever sent to states."
Skills USA is the largest, student-run organization in the country that prepares students for careers. "These kids aren't afraid to go out there and be leaders," said White. "And that's what we're looking for in the workforce, nowadays."
Chantilly High junior Diana Amaya, 16, won a silver medal in sculptured nails. First, she had an hour in which to do nail tips on a person's hand. "You place fake nail tips and put on white acrylic on the bottom part of the nail and pink on the top for a French tip look," she explained.
THEN SHE had an hour to do acrylic-form work on the person's other hand. "You actually form a better and longer nail out of her own nail," said Amaya. "It looks the same as tips, but it's the person's real nail."
After that came a written test about nails. Amaya said the toughest part of the competition was where she had to design and make a theme for a nail. She used a special kind of nail polish to actually draw designs on the nail to illustrate her theme.
"Mine was the four seasons, so it showed summer, fall, winter and spring," she said. "For winter, I drew a snowman and a kid playing in the snow; summer, a beach; fall, a tree with different-colored leaves, and a rake; and spring, a flower and a ladybug."
Amaya said the competition was fun and she especially enjoyed doing the designs "because I liked the way they looked at the end." She's looking forward to states and says it would be really nice to win. She's considering a career as a hair stylist and said, because of her training at the Chantilly Academy, when it came to districts, "I always remembered how to pick up the product well and make the 'smile line' at the white part of the French nail."
Senior Paige Salas, 18, of Robinson Secondary, won a silver medal in hair. For the competition, she did two women's haircuts, one man's haircut and an updo. She also took two written tests about cosmetology and a mock phone interview about a beauty salon's services.
SHE SAID THE MOST difficult part was "being at a school I don't normally work at, so I was out of my comfort zone. Also, we'd practice it [at the Academy] and be fine but, on the day of the competition, the time seemed to go by much quicker."
But Salas enjoyed the experience of getting to see what the other students were doing: "It made you a better hair stylist because you got to see how you could improve."
She said being at the Academy helped prepare her for Skills USA because "in class, we do an activity where we look at pictures of a hairstyle and have to decide what haircut it took to get it. And we had to do the same thing at the competition." She'd also like a career in this field because "it's so much fun. You see someone with beautiful hair and say, 'Wow, I could do this.'"
Juniors Kelly Edwards, 17, and Ashley Prytula, 16, both of Chantilly High, and Oakton High's Ashley Lederer competed in the community-service division of leadership skills and won gold medals. As a team, they presented information about a series of community-service projects they did throughout the year with students in the Head Start program at Chantilly.
"We mostly talked about how we delivered Christmas presents to them at Christmastime and how Mr. White dressed up as Santa," said Edwards. They began working with the children in October and volunteer in their class, once a month, reading and doing various activities.
"We did Valentines with them in February and will do an Easter Egg Hunt with them in March and April," she said. "It's fun to spend time with them." She thinks states will probably be harder "because it won't be at our own school," and she was glad to participate in districts to "let people know we give back something to the community and represent a positive image for The Chantilly Academy."
Prytula, too, is enjoying her Head Start experience. "At Christmas, we helped the children build gingerbread houses and, for Mother's Day, we'll help them make cards," she said. "It's interesting, and helping them just makes our day."
"A MOTHER WHO was there at Christmas cried when she saw all the gifts because she said, without them, her kids wouldn't have a Christmas," said Prytula. "It was pretty touching, so it made us feel really good. And the kids are fun to play with and are adorable."
She, Edwards and Lederer also made a presentation about what the cosmetology classes do and how community residents have their hair and nails done by the students at reduced prices. "It's a pretty cool class," said Prytula. "And the customers come back." She was also glad to tell the judges "about all the good stuff we do to help other people" and was excited to win a gold medal."
Also winning a gold medal — in spelling — was South Lakes senior Leigh-Ana Bordatto, 17. She had to spell 25 words correctly and was happy that she got to write them down, instead of having to "stand up in front of a crowd." She said her toughest word was "extemporaneous" and she had a feeling she'd done well before learning she'd come in first.
"Now, I'm reading different books to see if there are any new words I can learn to broaden my vocabulary and, hopefully, win another gold medal at states," said Bordatto. She plans to someday become a psychologist or a preschool teacher.