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Ceres, Hughson high students put skills to the test
Yaresli Lopez
Central Valley High School senior Yaresli Lopez writes a report during the Law Enforcement competition at the 37th annual Stanislaus County Occupational Olympics & Career Expo. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Approximately 750 students from Stanislaus County high schools – including a number from Ceres High School and Central Valley High School in Ceres  and Hughson High School – participated in competitive events during Thursday’s 37th Annual Stanislaus County Occupational Olympics and Career Exposition. The event was hosted by the Stanislaus County Office of Education at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds.

In addition to the competitive events, 45 business/industry representatives exhibited and spoke to students during the Career Expo.

Students were judged on knowledge of their field of interest, ability to perform tasks using appropriate tools, and employability skills. Representatives from local business and industry judged students in competitive events including agricultural engineering/construction, agricultural technology, animal husbandry, basic life support CPR/first aid, criminal justice, culinary, elevator pitch, firefighter candidate, floriculture, job seeking skills, medical occupations, Pitsco drag racing, robotics, small engine, video game design and welding.

Oakdale High School took the large school overall award at the event, held at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds. Riverbank High School won the small school overall award.

Plaques were awarded to the top three participants in each event, and the top eight finalists received ribbons. Unfortunately, none of the Ceres participants medaled this year.

Students from Hughson High who won gold medals in their respective competitions were:

• Ethan Larson, second place in Agricultural Equipment Technology

• Lillian Agueda, second place in Job Seeking Skills;

Four students apiece represented law enforcement classes at Ceres High School and Central Valley High School.

Thursday’s competition supplemented what students have been learning in class, said second-year law enforcement teacher Nayeli Vacasotelo. Classes at both schools invite guest speakers from Ceres, Turlock and Oakland police departments as well as the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department to talk about their careers. Inviting larger police departments to speak allows students to see the pros and cons of working in different sized jurisdictions. While larger Bay Area cities may offer higher salaries, the crime is greater and so is the stress, she said.

“A lot of them come from low-income families and if this is something they’re interested in doing, if they work in the Bay in law enforcement and you’re living in the Valley, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck,” said Vacasotelo. “But my goal for them is want to be officers in their community because I tell them nobody knows your community better than you. If you want policing to improve, this is where it starts.”

She said that approximately 15 out of 35 total law enforcement students have their sights set on becoming police officers. One is already in the Sheriff’s Department explorer program. The trick is keeping them on focused because they cannot apply for police training programs until they are 21 years of age.

The school also helps to direct students to career education and the right classes to take at Modesto Junior College to continue. Those in the cadet or explorer programs with Ceres Police or the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, she noted, is “they stay with you so whatever happens in those three years they keep an eye on you.”

Since the retirement of teacher Randy Cerny, a Police Procedures class was added that allows students to wear equipment similar to what an officer must wear.

Five Ceres High and five CVHS students in the Advanced Police Procedures class provided security for the fairgrounds during the event.

Problems plagued the CVHS robotics team of Jayre Bustos and Oswald Sanchez during competition. The pair was trying to navigate their robot remotely through their smart phone apps but ended up abandoning the effort before the three-minute time limit was up.

Floriculture 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 fairgrounds buildings were a number of agencies and companies trying to interest students for career choices. They included Turlock and Modesto Police, Ceres Fire Department, Stanislaus County Probation Department, Turlock Parks & Recreation and the Institute of Technology.

The event was sponsored by the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE), Stanislaus Partners in Education (SPIE), Stanislaus County Fair, Modesto City Schools, Modesto Junior College, Institute of Technology, local business and industry, and school districts countywide.