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Occupational Olympics
Students put job know-how to the test
Front page OCCOLY
Hughson High students Giovanna Warner (left) and Aaron Vega (right) receive instruction on small engine competition from Ron Smith of H.G. Makelin Engine Company of Modesto at Thursdays annual Occupational Olympics. The event was held at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER /The Courier

Hughson High's Giovanna Warner was one of about 662 high school students from throughout the county who were tested in their respective 18 fields of occupational knowledge during the 33rd Annual Occupational Olympics and Career Exposition (OOCE) in Turlock.

As far as she could tell, she was the only girl in the small engine competition and admitted she was nervous.

During the exposition, representatives from local business and industry judged students in 18 competitive events including, agricultural engineering, automotive technology, criminal justice, fashion design, firefighter candidate, job seeking skills, marketing mathematics, robotics and welding.

Approximately 50 vendors represented business/industry and students had the opportunity to speak to them regarding careers and college.

Students will be rated on knowledge of their field of interest, ability to perform tasks using appropriate tools, and employability skills. Plaques are awarded to the top three participants in each event, and the top eight finalists receive ribbons. One small and one large school will be awarded a Sweepstakes Award.

Inside the textiles building at the Fairgrounds, Ceres High School teacher Randy Cerny was busy running law enforcement students through a competition testing their knowledge of processing a robbery at a convenience store either as a witness, victim or police officer presenting evidence to the district attorney.

Ceres High School provided many of the 22 students in law enforcement competitions while other CHS students provided security for the event. Other competitors came from Turlock and Modesto high schools.

Criminal justice students roleplayed a victim, a witness and an officer to investigate a fictional crime. After interviewing the “victim,” competitors questioned the witness, taking down suspect and vehicle information, writing a written narrative of their findings and presenting their findings with two actual prosecutors from the Stanislaus County

District Attorney’s Office. Deputy district attorneys Jeff Manger and Tony Colacito then quizzed the students about their findings to determine if a warrant could be filed. Both critiqued students on their thoroughness and accuracy, ability to clearly and concisely synopsize an incident; check for sufficient details; and judged overall appearance, confidence and presence.

“It’s really a true learning experience for them,” said Cerny.

Cerny estimates that since 1994, 275 of his former students in the program are now in law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels, including the U.S. Coast Guard. They include graduates who went to work for the state Department of Corrections officers, and as 9-1-1 dispatchers, custodial and patrol sheriff’s deputies and city police officer.

He said a lot of his current students are looking into internship programs offered by the Sheriff’s Department and Modesto Police Department.

“At 18 years of age, they’re paying $19 an hour to be an intern and if they do the intern program from 18 to 21 they’re guaranteed to be paid to go to the Academy.”

Ceres Police Department is trying to get its own internship program off the ground.

Manger advised Terijo Benevidez on the importance of writing a complete report in good grammar and spelling to detail the facts of the case so that prosecutors can do their job.

“Fifty percent of all misdemeanor crimes officers arrest people on are dismissed,” Mangar told Benevidez. “That’s because there is insufficient evidence as to who committed a crime, that’s why it’s key to have as much evidence as you can when you submit your cases to the D.A.’s office.”

Chris Van Meter, a Ceres High School teacher, helped oversee the robotics competition in which both seven from CHS and nine from Central Valley High School competed.

“They do well. They usually score in the top six.”

Van Meter said robotics competitors were given a “very minimal idea of what the design was going to be, then they had to come here and be ready to compete with just a half hour to really see the layout of the game so they’re feverishly working to do modifications to the robot to get the best advantage. They’ve been adding and taking apart.”

Some of the stiffest completion came from the military academy and Valley Charter in Modesto.

Central Valley High teacher Kiah Featherstone helped oversee the floriculture competition.

Students competed against one another to correctly identify 25 house plant varieties, 25 cut flowers and 25 tools of the trade. They also had to evaluate arrangements in order of marketability, from best to worst; as well as judge the quality of house plant and potted plants. The end of the competition included corsage making using flowers, wire, tape and hot glue in 30 minutes or less.

Outside the buildings were exhibits highlighting jobs with the California Highway Patrol, Turlock Police SWAT, city of Turlock Parks & Recreation and Universal Technical Institute.

Below is a compilation of the local first- through third-place winners by event:

Agricultural Equipment Technology - second place, Noah Huffman (Hughson).

Criminal Justice - first place, Alexandria Marquez of Ceres High School; and second place, Jesus Pacheco, Ceres High.

Job Seeking Skills - second place, Michelle Borges (Hughson High), and third place, Leah Rawe (Hughson).

Marketing Mathematics – first place, Cassie Love, Hughson High.

Portfolio Review – second place, Michelle Borges, Hughson High School.

Robotics Technology – first place, the Central Valley High School team of Nykola Coconi and Nathan Evans; and second place, the Ceres High School team of Leo Juarez and Aron Ferrera.

Welding – first place, Ethan Lewis, Ceres High School.

The large school overall award went to Turlock High School while the small school overall award went to Hughson High School.