Jared VanHaren earns gold at nationals

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Oconto Falls grad takes first place in the sheet metal competition

Times Herald Staff

Jared VanHaren, a recent Oconto Falls High School graduate from Little Suamico, races the clock to finish his sheet metal project during the SkillsUSA National Championships last month in Louisville, Kentucky. VanHaren is the first Oconto Falls student to earn first place at the national level. (Contributed photo)

Jared VanHaren completed his high school career by bringing home the first gold medal in Oconto Falls High School history at the SkillsUSA National Championship.

The recent graduate from Little Suamico earned a first-place state medal in the sheet metal competition, qualifying him for a return trip to the national competition June 27-28 in Louisville, Kentucky, where last year he placed fifth in the nation.

“We are very proud of Jared’s accomplishments,” said John Bursa, Jared’s adviser at OFHS. “He is a true champion in his dedication to excellence in the sheet metal trade.”

During the national competition, VanHaren and other students worked against the clock and each other in 102 career and technical fields, proving their expertise in occupations like electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting and culinary arts. All contests are run with the help of industry, trade associations and labor organizations, and test competencies are set by industry. In addition, leadership contestants demonstrated their skills, which included extemporaneous speaking and conducting meetings by parliamentary procedure.

More than 6,300 students competed at the national showcase of career and technical education. The SkillsUSA Championships is the largest skill competition in the world and covers 1.4 million square feet, equivalent to 20 football fields or 25 acres.

The championship event is for high school and college-level students who are members of SkillsUSA. High scorers in the contests received Skill Point Certificates, which are awarded in 72 occupational and leadership areas to students who achieved a high score defined by industry. VanHaren received this certificate with a score of 91.6 percent.

Oconto Falls has sent about 20 students to the SkillsUSA Championehips over the years. The highest previous showings were by two students who earned bronze medals for third place, Bursa said.

The SkillsUSA Championships event is held annually for students in middle school, high school or college/postsecondary programs as part of the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. More than 360,000 students and advisors join SkillsUSA annually, organized into more than 18,000 sections and 53 state and territorial associations.