JCJC students compete in national Skills USA contest

Written By: Teresa Martin
Email Address: teresa.martin@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2012-07-26 14:40:59

ELLISVILLE – Two Jones County Junior College sophomores had the opportunity to travel to Kansas City, MO, to see how their job skills compare nationally in the Skills USA National Leadership and Skills competition.  Josh Haralson of Jackson, MS and Welton Wardell Jr. of New Orleans, LA earned the right to compete after winning first place in state competition.  Haralson is the first JCJC culinary arts student to compete in this segment of the food production contest, placing 11th out of 31 students; some with four years of culinary arts cooking experience.

“I could’ve done better if I had known more about the challenges involved with this type of competition, but I’ve very happy overall.  We had to share utensils and resources with eight people trying to prepare a menu of specialty food items,” said Haralson.

The Hattiesburg restaurant manager learned to love cooking at age 14 from an Italian restaurant owner in Pearl, MS who happened to have his restaurant next to the video store where his brother worked.  A chance meeting grew into a passion for cooking and an opportunity to prove his skills on the national level.

“I came back to school to get professional cooking and management experience and the Skills USA competition was another great learning experience,” said Haralson.  “I knew the judges were looking for quality instead of a fancy menu, so I think I did very well considering some of my competitors and the challenges to quickly prepare complicated dishes.”

The cosmetology competition wasn’t easy for Wardell either as the first JCJC cosmetology student to earn the right to go to the national competition.  He explains he has been doing his younger sister’s hair since he was eight years old as a way to help his mother. 

“I just learned how to cut hair this fall,” said Wardell.  “I’ve tried other occupations like carpentry but doing hair is my passion.”

Placing 5th in the nation, Wardell proved he knew how to do an ‘up do’, and three different types of haircuts with just a picture to guide him. 

“It’s difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing,” Wardell said with confidence. 

Despite his cosmetology capabilities, getting to the Kansas City competition required more than just his skills and first place state title.  Wardell’s writing skills turned out to be good enough to earn a $1,000 mikerowe WORKS Foundation scholarship to help with the expenses of getting to the competition. The famous host of Discovery Channel’s popular series Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe created the Foundation to help shorten the ‘skills gap’ in the U.S. and strengthen our infrastructure.  Wardell’s essay discussing his need for financial assistance, partly because his family was displaced because of Hurricane Katrina, earned Wardell the scholarship and he became the first Jones student to win that opportunity too.

“I appreciate the opportunity to compete and this was my first time north,” said Wardell.  “I got to see lots of different hair styles and I met people from Puerto Rico, Wyoming, Michigan, George, Texas and Minnesota.”

About 150 JCJC students are involved in the Skills USA organization which is working to ensure America has a skilled workforce while helping students excel. 



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