(WACO) – A group of Belton High School alumni who won gold medals at last year’s national SkillsUSA contest in Kentucky are now students at Texas State Technical College – and they want to touch gold again.
Allen Harlow, Joseph Hermann and Andres Zapata were part of the high school’s Teamworks construction group that placed first nationally. The team was the first from Texas to get this achievement.
“We had our hopes up high and felt we did our best and gave it our all,” Zapata said. “When they called Belton out for first place, we couldn’t believe it and were speechless.”
Now, they are TSTC Building Construction Technology majors working each Friday preparing for their first collegiate-level SkillsUSA Teamworks contest in April at TSTC. But first, the group will practice against Belton’s 2018 Teamworks group at the Texas SkillsUSA District 10 Leadership Development and Technical Skills Competition taking place Feb. 2-3 at TSTC.
“I am so very proud to see our former students competing on the college level,” said Belton High School construction technology instructor Craig Sullivan. “I think they will do very well, if not win it all again. They have a superior understanding of how the contest is run and judged and what is expected. They have all been cross-trained in all the skills. TSTC is taking them to the next level and polishing their craft.”
Harlow, 19, said Sullivan convinced him to go to college though he thought about joining the military.
“Allen was my team finisher,” Sullivan said. “He could do all aspects of the build. When needed, he would help each team member finish their skill. He was also my second mason on the team and was key in our finish last year at nationals.”
Zapata was involved in SkillsUSA construction most of his high school career. His favorite parts of construction are learning building codes and plumbing. Last summer, he was an intern at Cooper and Bright Plumbing in Harker Heights, where he worked alongside employees on projects ranging from pipe installation to troubleshooting water leaks.
Attending TSTC was always in his post-high school plans, Zapata said. He said it felt like home with so many Belton students at TSTC. He is a 2017 recipient of the Mike Rowe WORKS Foundation’s Work Ethic Scholarship.
“It has helped me out to pursue my dream,” Zapata, 19, said.
Twins Joseph and David Hermann, 20, did SkillsUSA construction at Belton. Joseph was on the national championship team and two state championship teams and David was on a Belton team that finished second in the state.
Joseph Hermann said he chose to do SkillsUSA in high school to stay out of trouble. Masonry has become his strength in team construction. His brother said he enjoyed learning the full range of construction through the organization.
“The Hermann twins were a joy to teach,” Sullivan said.
Another Belton High School alumnus who has SkillsUSA experience hopes to make an impact in the Building Construction Technology program. Zach Henderson, 20, a 2016 Belton Teamworks member, is in his second semester at TSTC. He came to Waco with encouragement of BCT instructor Michael Carrillo and his classmates.
“I knew I wanted to do school,” Henderson said. “I told myself it was something I had to do.”
Henderson said he also wanted to be on another Teamworks team with his Belton classmates.
“I’m hungry for a national title,” Henderson said.
Harlow, Joseph Hermann and Zapata’s victory last year continued a winning SkillsUSA tradition at Belton High School. Under Sullivan’s tenure, the high school has won four consecutive state Teamworks titles, four teams have placed in the top 10 nationally and last year’s team won first place.
“Students that have gone through our program here at Belton have bought into our motto,” he said. “I keep it posted in our classroom: ‘Excellence is not an act, but a habit. We are what we repeatedly do.’ That motto has served us well.”
TSTC is also hosting Texas SkillsUSA’s District 5 for its leadership and skills contest on Feb. 9-10. District 4 will visit for its contest on Feb. 23-24.
“Hosting these district contests on our campus allows us to have direct access to high school students that are driven to excel in technical-related fields,” said James Matus, TSTC’s statewide SkillsUSA manager.
For more information on SkillsUSA in Texas, go to skillsusatx.org.
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.