Skills USA State Officer Headed to Nationals

Career Center senior going to national conference
By: Todd Martin
Sweet, creative and on the quiet side, the new sophomore at the Killeen ISD Career Center decided on a travel and tourism class to fill an elective and make an easy grade.
Now entering her senior year, Emily Tapia Patino laughs about her modest introduction to Brenda Drawdy’s class and the student leadership organization, Skills USA that her teacher has championed for decades.
“I took travel and tourism as an elective for something easy and as soon as I got here, she started talking about Skills USA,” Patino said, seated with Drawdy in the classroom with the student’s snappy, red blazer hanging nearby.
Now, the student who was looking to learn more about her long-held passion for photography is one of seven state officers in Skills USA and she’s headed to the organization’s national conference June 24-28 as a Texas delegate.
She’s also well-spoken and a proven leader excited to network among peers and to help younger students just getting started in the career preparation organization.
Patino remembers touring the Career Center as a fifth-grader and visiting when her older sister was a cosmetology student at the career-focused high school. “I was excited to get here,” she said.
She just completed her second year in photography and will do a practicum course as a senior. In competition through Skills USA she finished first place in commercial photography and chose to seek election as an officer, which dominated her time at the five-day state event.
In preparation, Patino built her resume and prepared the required essay, learned the group’s handbook and secured letters of recommendation. During the state conference, it was a flurry of late nights “trying to get it done,” she said.
The top 30 officer candidates moved to the interview phase, which led to a discussion about Skills USA beliefs and leadership philosophy. When she passed that level, she was required to deliver a speech to the statewide delegation on a “problematic question.”
Kept backstage so she wouldn’t hear the other speeches, she emerged to speak about the professional organization framework, drawing on technical information that the bright student studied in advance.
Next, she campaigned among her statewide peers and then waited to the end of the conference to learn she was selected to serve on the seven-member officer team.
“When I heard my name, I thought ‘Is this real?’ and (Drawdy) said come on,” she recalled. The proud teacher, a 45-year career preparation educator said she was screaming with excitement.
“It means so much to me,” Patino said. “I was quiet. I sat in the back. Skills pushed me to my limits to be better. It was important for me to see others with that motivation. In the beginning, I didn’t understand being on a team. It means a lot. I want to help others like me.”
It’s been a big year for Drawdy as well. She is teacher of the year for the Texas Industrial Vocational Association and serves on the state Skills USA Board of Directors.
Patino and Drawdy will attend the National Leadership and Skills Conference June 24-28 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Other Career Center students attending the national event include extemporaneous speaking state winner Bailey Greene and state champion duo Cassandra Greer and Dominic Carozza, competing in digital cinema production.