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Job skills tested
Approximately 500 area high school students tested their knowledge in 23 occupational competitive events Wednesday and some walked away with medals in the 23rd annual Occupational Olympics. The event was held at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Turlock.

Students from Ceres and Central Valley high schools in Ceres not only participated in contests for gold, silver and bronze medals in Olympic style, but also learned some things about what it takes to succeed in their fields.

"It was fun," said Cherise Azevedo, a Ceres High freshman who competed in floriculture exhibits. Azevedo and her peers assembled a corsage and identified parts of plants and flowers.

"I want to be a floriculture teacher," she said. "I want to go to college and get my teaching credentials."

Ceres High sent 14 law enforcement students to Turlock to compete in the criminal justice division. Teacher Randy Cerny said the event gave his students a chance to learn oral communication and interview skills in front of professional officers and prosecutors.

As Jace Sloan, a Hughson High School student who is enrolled in Ceres' ROP law enforcement class, was busy writing a report, Ceres High senior Brandon Hopkins was face to face with deputy district attorney Shawn Bessey for a mock interview.

Hopkins is an explorer scout who wants to one day become a sworn deputy with the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department.

"It's pretty cool," said Hopkins of the competition. Initially he was nervous about being grilled by Bessey.

Bessey said he always stresses to students that they need to be thorough in their reports, obtaining names and telephone numbers of witnesses for prosecution.

Next year Cerny's law enforcement program will be offered to Central Valley High students.

Bessey said police agencies are having a tough time getting recruits for police work.

"This is our future," said Bessey of the students. "We're hoping we can get police officers out of this, or even attorneys or people interested in the criminal justice system. Everybody is trying to recruit people right now. It's tough so hopefully we'll be rejuvenating the interest in criminal justice system."

A total of 12 students from Ceres provided security at the gates to the fairgrounds, said Cerny.

Under an animal shelter that was being tapped by huge rain drops, agriculturally minded students were demostrating their tractor know-how. CHS student Bastiaan Weststeyn maneuvered a small tractor up to a farm implement, attached it, moved it and took it apart. As he backed up during the Farm Power event, he was a bit unnerved by the beeping sound that meant he hadn't set the brake.

Raised on a farm outside of Ceres, Weststeyn said he plans to pursue agribusiness.

Local students who won medals at the event were:

• Devin Elidy from Ceres High, who took first in Architectural Drafting;

• Thomas Vanderlaan from Ceres High, silver medalist in Architectural Drafting;

• Ryan Garcia, Hughson High, bronze medalist in Agricultural Equipment Technology;

• Chelci Designori, Ceres High, gold medalist in Criminal Justice;

• Jess Gilmore, Ceres High, silver medalist in Criminal Justice;

• Victoria Deanda, Central Valley High, gold medalist in Floriculture;

• Angelica Leon, Central Valley High, silver medalist in Floriculture;

• Alexander Kemper, Ceres High, gold medalist in Mechanical Drafting;

• Mathew Gomes, Ceres High, silver medalist in Mechanical Drafting;

• Karla Campos, Ceres High, bronze medalist in Mechanical Drafting;

• Trent Voss, Hughson High, gold medalist in Small Engine Technology;

• Gary Peters, Hughson High, bronze medalist in Small Engine Technology.

Turlock High won the Large School Overall Award while Orestima High in Newman took the Small School Overall Award.

In addition to the competitive events, representatives of 50 businesses and industries had a chance to educate students about career fields.