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SkillsUSA continues community service in challenging year

The Brooke High School SkillsUSA Chapter has thanked the community for supporting the most successful food drive among those spearheaded by SkillsUSA chapters throughout West Virginia. The group also was recognized for its “sculpture” of much the food into a small Christmas tree and fireplace, complete with donated socks for Christmas stockings. With the food are, from left, Kendrick Fish, vice president; Madison Ely, club reporter; Jason Polgar, president; and Krysten Myers. -- Contributed

WELLSBURG — With support from the community, the Brooke High School chapter of SkillsUSA has been able to provide service to the community despite a pandemic that limited the group’s ability to meet in person.

Jason Polgar, the chapter’s president, said thanks to the generosity of many donors and the support of more than a dozen businesses, the chapter collected 1,374 nonperishable food items and toiletries for the Steubenville Urban Mission during a two-week period before Christmas.

Polgar added monetary and other donations from the Hancock County Ambulance Service and Christian Assembly of Follansbee supplemented the many contributions made by patrons of 13 businesses in various parts of Brooke County.

He said the club would have held a food and toiletry drive at the school, but it was closed in November amid an increase in COVID-19 cases so the businesses were asked to host collection sites.

“The local businesses really came through for us,” said Polgar, who added the club was recognized for generating the most donations among SkillsUSA chapters in the state.

The group also had the winning “sculpture” created from the donations after stacking canned goods and other items into the form of a small Christmas tree and a fireplace, with donated socks serving as stockings, that rose to one’s chest.

In addition to Polgar, the club’s is led by Kendrick Fish, vice president; Brooke Ohler, secretary; Thomas Packer, treasurer; Sidney Felouzis, chaplain; Madison Ely, reporter; Rylie Winters, historian; and Ethan Robey, parliamentarian.

Polgar said each year SkillsUSA chapters engage in at least one community service project statewide. Last year’s was the collection of blankets for the homeless, and the Brooke chapter also netted the most donations, with about 100.

He said school closings resulting from the pandemic have made it more difficult for the group to plan activities. But the club was able to team with the school’s chapter of Technology Students of America to gather litter and other debris along Cross Creek Road near the high school as part of the West Virginia Department of Transportation’s Adopt-a-Highway program.

Community service is just part of being involved with SkillsUSA, which invites students with various career goals to take part in competitions involving skills ranging from effectiveness as public speakers to poise in mock job interviews.

The competitions range from 50 to 100 in number and are held during the organization’s state conferences.

At a state conference hosted by the Brooke chapter last year, five members and the club’s advisor, Thomas Bane; were awarded SkillsUSA’s Statesman award after demonstrating outstanding knowledge of the organization.

The members were: Ashton Burns, Fish, Ohler, Polgar and Winters.

Polgar said, who also is Region II vice president for SkillsUSA, said there are plans for a virtual state conference, slated for March 25-27; and a virtual national conference from June 21-25.

“They’re trying to figure out ways to do as many competitions as possible through the Internet,” he said.

The Brooke chapter also has employed the Internet, using it recently to present a job interview training program led by business teacher Adam Haught.

“That was a big help. A lot of people asked questions,” Polgar noted.

He said in recent years he and others have worked to boost the local club’s membership and held a meet and greet with a pumpkin-carving contest to attract new members.

Held with the help of Moe’s on Main, a local craft store, the event also received a boost from many other businesses that donated about 50 pumpkins.

Polgar said he and the club’s other officers hope ultimately to draw students from each of the high school’s career clusters.

“We’re shooting to have all 15 of the programs at the school represented,” he said.

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