HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Wallace State Mechatronics student Andre Shepherd was close to earning a medal last year at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference.
Shepherd is aiming as high as he can this year. Shepherd, his classmate and teammate Billy Johnson, and 26 other Wallace State students will compete at the 55th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky beginning Monday. The event is set for June 24-28.
“I’m striving for that gold medal. I would love to win one for the college, Billy (Johnson) and myself. I want to bring back our department’s first gold,” Shepherd said. “Nationals is a great way to see how you stack up against peers in your chosen field across the country. I’m ready to go.”
Shepherd, 32, has earned two state SkillsUSA gold medals during his Wallace State career and is preparing for a second straight trip to Louisville.
Shepherd had a pair of classmates, Steven Ballard and Landon Warnock, earn silver medals at the national event last year in the Robotics and Automation Technology competition, narrowly missing out on the gold.
Wallace State’s two previous SkillsUSA national champions were Joey Foster of welding (2009) and Matthew O’Neal of machine tool technology (2003).
Wallace State Mechatronics instructor Keith Tolbert won’t be surprised if Shepherd adds to the gold medal count.
“Andre has the desire and ambition to be the best he can be and told me last year at nationals, when we got on the bus, that he was coming back to win a gold. Andre chose Billy Johnson to help him reach that goal this year,” Tolbert said. “We’re extremely proud when any of our students wins a state or national medal, and it would thrill me to see Andre bring back a gold medal. He deserves it. He has a great work ethic and understands the time required to reach that goal.”
Shepherd will graduate from the Mechatronics program in August after initially enrolling at Wallace State through the Kamtek apprenticeship program.
Shepherd, a Huffman High graduate, began his collegiate path at Auburn University in 2005 before returning to Birmingham. He eventually enrolled at Jeff State upon returning home and beginning work at Kamtek. Through Wallace State’s Mechatronics apprenticeship program at Kamtek, Shepherd became a Lion and will continue to work for the Birmingham-based company upon graduation.
“I’m blessed to be a part of the apprenticeship program and to be at Wallace State. It’s a great college. I wish I came here right out of high school,” Shepherd said. “I’ve learned so many things here that I’ll be able to use as I look to advance in my career.”
Wallace State has a strong presence each year at the national SkillsUSA event. The college had a record-high 71 individuals earn a medal at the state event in April, including earning 31 gold medals – establishing another record. Wallace State had students compete in 36 different events, including categories like crime scene investigation, commercial baking, nail care, community service, welding and computer programming.
Also representing Wallace State at nationals are Austin Rich (Electronics Technology event), Richard King (Robotics and Automation Technology), Benjamin Brownlee and Chase Blakey (Mobile Robotic Technology), Philip Parish (Computer Programming), Zachary Glenn, Ashley Chambers and Kristi McKerley (Crime Scene Investigation), William Buzbee, Ricky Pugh and Darana Campbell (Chapter Display), Jonathan Hayes (CNC Technician), Jordan McAlpine (Automotive Refinishing Technology), Jacob Humphrey (Welding), Blake Bryant (Diesel Equipment Technology), Austin Lindley (Web Design), Amber Jones (Barbering), Tasha Kreps (Basic Health Care Skills), Molly Raisanen (Criminal Justice) and Katie Johns (Technical Computer Applications).
SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including health occupations. SkillsUSA serves more than 300,000 students and instructors annually. The organization has 13,000 school chapters in 54 state and territorial associations.
For more information about Wallace State, visit www.wallacestate.edu.