Powell River students shine at Skills Canada regional competition

Gold medals in culinary arts and public speaking top seven-medal haul

Last month, a group of Brooks Secondary School students returned home from the Skills Canada regional competition held at Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo campus with seven medals, including gold in public speaking and culinary arts.

“I think I’m one of the first, if not the first, person from Powell River to compete in the public speaking section,” said Ally Boyd, winner of a gold medal. “I’ve had a lot of experience speaking, including speech arts at the Powell River Festival for Performing Arts and competitions through Air Cadets, but this was definitely a different type of competition, and I was happy to get the gold.”

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Competitors in public speaking are asked to prepare a five- to seven-minute speech, and also to present an impromptu speech. The impromptu speech component is new at the regional level.

“We were asked to experience the other parts of the competition for the morning, then our impromptu speech related to the things we saw,” said Boyd. “My topic was ‘what trades did you observe this morning?’ With only two minutes to prepare and two minutes to speak, you have to be able to narrow down your topic quickly.”

Boyd’s prepared speech was about encouraging people from underrepresented groups to choose careers in the skilled trades and technology. “I had to do a lot of research because it wasn’t a topic that I was familiar with, but I was excited for it,” she said.

Culinary arts student Esmé Long brought home the other gold medal for Brooks. “I’ve competed in singing, but this was my first time competing in cooking,” she said. “The amount of practice was similar but in different ways. There is a lot more preparation in cooking, and you have to plan every step so that it goes smoothly.”

Avi Sternberg, instructor for the dual credit culinary arts program with VIU and Brooks Secondary, had been a judge at last year’s Skills Canada competition and helped Long to prepare. “Skills Canada competitions focus on the fundamental skills that a cook will need in the industry,” he said. “Esmé embodies many natural gifts for a cook, and we worked on other points like keeping your station very clean and maintaining good food hygiene.”

The judges offered feedback to Long about how to improve her performance. “The judges said they appreciated my cleanliness and that I tasted my curry as I went. But they told me I need to learn to iron my shirts properly. I tried, but ironing is harder than it looks,” she added with a laugh.

Boyd also received feedback to help prepare her for the next level of competition. “At regionals, the sense is that the judges are trying to nurture your skills,” she said. “It felt like Powell River in a way, that we were a small group and were here for each other.”

Other medalists from Brooks included: Hunter Baillie, bronze, culinary arts; Seth Morgan, silver, auto service; Chance Rivest, bronze, auto service; Nic Mazurek, silver, cabinet making; and Riley Robinson, bronze, hairdressing. 

Long and Boyd qualified for the Skills Canada BC Provincials on April 15. Unfortunately, the competition has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Copyright © Powell River Peak

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