Students at the Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County (CTC) recently had the chance to show off their talents at the

SkillsUSA District 1 regional competition at the Carbon County Career and Technical Institute and, out of more than 50 CTC competitors, two Abington Heights High School students brought home silver medals in the competition.

According to organizers, SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. Nine technical institutes in northeast Pennsylvania compete against each other annually in the competition. Gold medalists then advance to state and then national competitions. CTC student participants were chosen from their respective lab areas by competing against their classmates.

Missy Burke and Robin Lewis, both of Clarks Summit, are cosmetology students at CTC. Burke won her silver medal as a model for fellow CTC student Julianna Rinaldi of Mid Valley High School in the esthetics competition and Lewis won as a part of a three-person team in the SkillsUSA “Quiz Bowl” competition. Overall, 24 CTC students received

SkillsUSA gold, silver and bronze medals.

“These competitions boost self-confidence,” Burke said. “Even if you don’t place, you obviously got up and went someplace you’re not familiar with and did something you normally don’t do every day. You get to meet a lot of new people, too, which is cool.”

CTC cosmetology instructor Yolanda Martinelli explained that SkillsUSA not only provides students with the chance to compete against each other but it also provides them with life lessons that will transfer into the outside world.

“Both Robin and Missy are wonderful young ladies with promising futures in their prospective trade areas,” she said. “Not only are they learning a skill, but they are also learning work ethics, time management, integrity and self esteem.”

Robin Lewis originally enrolled at CTC to become a licensed cosmetologist but, through her coursework, discovered that her talents could be best put to use in another realm.

“Here [in cosmetology] we help people feel good about themselves,” she said. “I thought that if I was in social work, I could help people who are going through rough times feel good. I learned a lot here, like speaking, opening up, making friends and other things like that. Cosmetology is really social and you deal with a lot of people.”

Lewis further explained that while in college she will work in a salon to help pay off student loans. Burke currently works as a shampooist at StudioRD in Clarks Summit and hopes to open her own salon when she completes her license.

For more information on SkillsUSA, visit www.skilsusa.org. For more information on CTC, visit www.ctclc.edu.