Aims Automotive Students Sweep SkillsUSA Colorado with 8 Medals

Three gold medal winners are preparing to compete in the national competition later in June.

The Aims SkillsUSA team, pictured left to right, are Kayleigh Kerr, Kyle Cadarette (faculty), Drew Ayres, Jesse Manuel, Lucian Simpson and Mario Saenz.

Aims Community College automotive collision repair and refinishing students excelled in the SkillsUSA Colorado Competition, securing eight medals and positioning themselves for a national showdown in Atlanta.

Six dedicated students from Aims, which has several locations in northern Colorado, competed in the SkillsUSA Colorado Competition held in Pueblo in April. “They did fantastic and made us look great,” said Mike Hanscome, an Aims automotive instructor and advisor for the SkillsUSA team. “They worked their butts off, and at the end of the week, it paid off. They all got to stand on the podium.”

Each Aims student who participated in the event was placed in the top three of their category, achieving a total of eight medals. The winners include:

  • Post-Secondary Collision Repair: Mario Saenz, gold
    Post-Secondary Refinishing: Kayleigh Kerr, gold; Drew Ayres, silver; Jesse Manuel, bronze
    Post-Secondary Facility Management: Drew Ayres, gold; Jesse Manuel, silver; Kris Ried, bronze
    Secondary Refinishing: Lucian Simpson, bronze

The three gold medalists, Saenz, Ayres and Kerr, will now represent Colorado in the SkillsUSA Championships in Atlanta from June 24-28, their first opportunity to compete on the national stage.

Saenz is particularly excited about the networking opportunities at the SkillsUSA Conference. “I love meeting with a whole bunch of industry professionals and talking to them about their jobs, their companies and all the different technologies,” he said.

In preparation for nationals, Saenz has been honing his skills with extra practice and one-on-one coaching from instructors like Hanscome and Kyle Cadarette. “They are so helpful,” Saenz noted. “They have given me some tips and tricks and have also given me a good amount of practice to allow me to sharpen my skills to show at the competition.”

Ayres encourages other students to seize the opportunity to participate in SkillsUSA. “If you're in a position where you can go to this competition, you should do it just because it's a free education,” he advised.

Although Ayres initially aimed for a top spot in the refinishing category, his unexpected victory in facility management reflects his daily professional experience. “I did good because I deal with management stuff daily,” he explained. Ayres is now researching best practices and practicing scenarios to prepare for the competition, with hopes of returning next year to compete in refinishing.

For Kerr, this year marks her final eligibility to compete in SkillsUSA. After placing second in the state for the past two years, she pushed herself to reach the national finals. “I just, it’s like an addiction you get here and you love it. Then you can't stop,” she said.

Kerr advised aspiring competitors to be proactive in their learning. “If there's somebody who knows something that you don't, ask questions, make yourself better. Don't sit around waiting for it to happen,” she said.

The SkillsUSA Championships is the premier showcase of America’s most highly skilled career and technical education students and one of the world's largest hands-on workforce development events. Held in conjunction with SkillsUSA’s National Leadership & Skills Conference each June, this event features more than 6,000 state champions from across the U.S. competing in 115 skilled and leadership competitions.

Aims Community College supports its students in attending such events, covering costs for the conference, travel, accommodations and more. The automotive degree programs at Aims are nationally recognized and certified, providing students with ample opportunities to excel.

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