Tuesday, July 23, 2024

3 Gallup High students top SkillsUSA New Mexico medal table

3 Gallup High students top SkillsUSA New Mexico medal table

WINDOW ROCK – Skillful and talented Gallup McKinley County School students competed in the SkillsUSA New Mexico Championship on April 13 in Albuquerque, and a few walked away with medals.

Gallup High School students junior Kimmie Yellowhair and seniors Tyrell Smith and Ariyana Yazzie were recognized for their hard work and dedication, which could potentially open doors for them in the future.

Going for gold

Kimmie Yellowhair was apprehensive when it came time for her welding sculpture to be judged.

After only being introduced to welding recently, Yellowhair became curious.

“I never knew how to weld,” said Yellowhair, from Fort Defiance, Arizona. “I never touched a welding rod, ever.”

But it seemed almost destined that she was taking a welding class, which has been taught by longtime welding instructor Jeff Taylor, who has been admirable and supportive of his students for the past 38 years of teaching at Gallup High School.
Taylor introduced SkillsUSA to Yellowhair and encouraged her to compete.

In the welding competition, there were three categories: welding, welding fabrication, and welding sculpture.

Yellowhair competed in Welding sculpture, winning first place and taking home gold. The sentimental piece that she completed within four months revolved around her family.

Yellowhair describes a huge metal heart that represents her. The metal figures branching out of the heart are 10 of her family members, all holding wired hearts.

“One of them in particular isn’t holding a heart, though,” Yellowhair said with a laugh. “It’s my brother. It’s an ongoing sibling thing and a joke, so I thought it would be funny to add it.”

Competing at SkillsUSA New Mexico was a new atmosphere and experience for Yellowhair.


SkillsUSA New Mexico representatives say the championships are competitive events showcasing the state’s best career and technical education students.

Depending on the contest, the top one to three students from each classroom will move on to compete at the state level.

The state gold medalist for each competition will represent SkillsUSA New Mexico at the National Skills Leadership Conference in June in Atlanta, Georgia.

SkillsUSA impacts the lives of future workforce by developing personal, workplace, and technical skills grounded in academics.

A place of empowered and skillful students to boost their career-ready path into a professional workplace.

With over 1,500 skillful and knowledgeable students across New Mexico, three Gallup High School students competed.

Advising and guiding

Jeff Taylor said he always believes in his students, past and present.

Although Kimmie Yellowhair was new to the field, Taylor knew he had to encourage her to compete.

In part of the competition, contestants were to talk about their sculpture piece. Taylor said Yellowhair had the skills to do public speaking because of her outspokenness.

Roughly 16 other welding sculptures were displayed, and students were interviewed about their projects.

“I was excited and confident I was going to place,” Yellowhair said. “I was really anxious and nervous.”

When Yellowhair heard her name during the awards ceremony, she could not be any prouder.

She couldn’t be ecstatic as a first-time welder and now a gold medalist in welding.

“This is a great opportunity for more things to open up,” she added.

Yellowhair is keeping her options open between trade schools or the University of California, Davis.

According to Taylor, most trade schools recruit students from Gallup High School.

Trade schools like Tulsa Welding School in Oklahoma, Lincoln College of Technology in Colorado, Universal Technical Institute in Phoenix, WyoTech in Wyoming, and local schools like the University of New Mexico-Gallup and Navajo Technical University.


Senior Tyrell Smith, who is from Rock Springs, New Mexico, previously competed in SkillsUSA New Mexico but did not place. This year, Smith competed again in welding fabrication.

This contest tested the contestants’ skills in reading blueprints, welding symbols, and welding terms, which are required to conform to the latest edition of the American Welding Society, the AWS, standards.

The contest evaluates the student’s preparation for employment and recognizes professionalism in welding fabrication.

Although competitive, Smith wasn’t too pleased to receive third place, but he still admires welding.

“I got the hang of it,” Smith said of welding. “I want to get a job that makes me feel good—and that’s welding.”

After high school, Smith plans on attending Tulsa Welding School in Oklahoma and is keeping his options open with job opportunities for pipe welding.

Although receiving a bronze medal during the SkillsUSA New Mexico Championship in the culinary arts competition, senior Ariyana Yazzie was proud to complete the competition. She was nervous and couldn’t push through her junior year.

“This year, it started off the same again,” said Yazzie, from Gallup. “But then I started going with the flow.” She redeemed herself.

Contestants were provided with a list of ingredients and had to create a menu with the following items in the culinary arts competition.

Yazzie’s three dishes contained carrots, cucumbers, lemon, green beans, chicken, mushroom, and potatoes, among other ingredients.

They were all delicious delights, and Yazzie said she always appreciated food because she loved to eat.

“I figured this would be a pretty fun class,” Yazzie said about the culinary arts class taught by Chef Dexter Dale, who has over 12 years of experience and has been teaching the culinary arts class for over two years.

Yazzie said culinary arts is more than just baking, which she thought at first, but after gaining more insight, she has loved the approach of preparation and the skillful techniques used.

Although unsure of their future after high school, Yazzie is considering art school, psychology, or becoming a tattoo artist, at least doing an apprenticeship, as she is passionate about

With the crazy talent that Jeff Taylor described in his welding students, whom he had the honor of teaching and supporting, he appreciates SkillsUSA and what it offers students who are trying to find their footing.

“I personally enjoy it a lot,” said Dale, a former gold medalist with SkillsUSA.

“Skills had taken me to place I never thought I’d go before,” Dale said, which he fully supports because he is living proof for what the program did for him and his career.

“Put in work and time to learn and apply your skills,” he added.

Additional students who received medals at SkillsUSA were Thoreau High School students Monique Spencer, who received a gold medal, and Ryan Emerson, who took home a silver medal in medical terminology.

All thanks to the support and dedication of their advisor, Nadine Delgarito.

About The Author

Boderra Joe

Boderra Joe is a reporter and photographer at Navajo Times. She has written for Gallup Sun and Rio Grande Sun and has covered various beats. She received second place for Sports Writing for the 2018 New Mexico Better Newspaper Awards. She is from Baahazhł’ah, New Mexico.


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