CATA students form school’s first SkillsUSA Council

The 2019-20 CATA SkillsUSA Student Council, the school’s first, left to right: Ulises Lopez, Avery Hill, Zach Benson, Matthew Dunagan, Ryleigh Welch, Savannah Sivley and Aaliyah Daugherty (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – For the 2019-20 school year, the Cullman Area Technology Academy (CATA) has taken an extra step in promoting both cooperation between its programs and outreach to other schools and the community by forming a SkillsUSA Council. The body, representing a cross-section of the school’s programs, is student-led and was created by student body election.

Members include:

  • Savannah Sivley, president
  • Avery Hill, vice president
  • Ulises Lopez, vice president
  • Zach Benson, historian
  • Aaliyah Daugherty, parliamentarian
  • Matthew Dunagan, treasurer
  • Ryleigh Welch, secretary


CATA has multiple career tech programs compartmentalized in widely varying fields, which means that students on the same campus may have little contact with others outside their programs. The council offers a remedy, at least for students in programs that participate in SkillsUSA, a national organization that describes itself as an “association serving high school, college and middle school students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including health occupations, and for further education. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA helps each student excel.”

CATA Cosmetology instructor and council advisor Tasha Flanigan said of the council members, “They serve for the whole campus, not just each classroom, so it’s different programs that came together to form this council. Students that are in this, some of them have competed in SkillsUSA for three years. They’ve received medals for competing, and they’re the ones starting this council up.”

The council creates a point of contact between all SkillsUSA participants at CATA, and helps them focus their energies on joint projects, both in the school and out in the community.

Welding instructor and council advisor Jacob Ayers said, “This council is the voice of Cullman Area Technology Academy Skills USA. If they head up community service work, fundraisers, I mean anything like that, these guys are in charge of it.”

Flanigan added, “The thing about it: we’re just trying to join our shops together for teamwork, and combine our shops, where they can display character for the school. We’re hoping, too, to project more community service projects with this council. We want to reach out to the community more, and we’ve got several projects in line to do this year. Now, they’ve come up with every bit of this.”

The Tribune spoke with a few council members about what led them to the council and what they hope to accomplish.

Sivley: “This is our first year doing this, and what I hope to see out of this is leadership and everybody getting along, and I want to help the community service projects, and just help everybody around us.”

Dunagan: “I wish to develop the leadership and the qualities that our school needs. I hope that we can use this council to develop our community and let them see what SkillsUSA is about.”

Lopez: “I really want to help out SkillsUSA in my first year. Second year in HVAC and I love it, and I wanted to join SkillsUSA because I think the community needs to be helped out, and to make a great leadership (effort) with everyone in the community, and just help the schools better.”

Benson: “I just wanted to see how I could help in any way possible.”

The new council members will attend an upcoming SkillsUSA regional leadership council meeting, where they will learn about developing their leadership skills and carrying out the functions of a local school council.

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W.C. Mann