KANSAS CITY — For the second straight year, a welding student from Bladen Community College has won a national award in the SkillsUSA national competitions. Ashleigh Cacciotti placed third in the Job Skills Demonstration category of the welding competition held in Kansas City in late June.
Cacciotti represented North Carolina in the competition after taking the first place award at the North Carolina Skills USA competitions in April. The competitors in the national competition are first place winners in the various categories from throughout the nation.
The national competition proved to be quite a challenge for Cacciotti. She had contracted an infection a few days prior to leaving for Kansas City. She decided to “tough it out” and compete anyway. Her condition worsened after she arrived at the competitions and by the time she reached the final round, she was quite ill. It was later discovered that she had had a reaction to an antibiotic she had been prescribed to treat the infection.
“I was pretty sick, but I had come this far and didn’t want to drop out,” she said. “It wasn’t easy, but I was able to complete the competition.
“Despite being ill, the competition was exciting and really fun,” she said enthusiastically. “I was excited but now really nervous. I was prepared and ready to compete. There were 6,100 competitors from all over the nation competing in many categories, and they were all winners in their respective state-level competitions. All seemed to be high caliber people. Though most were young—many still in high school— there didn’t seem to be any behavior problems. The stadium was full of people. It was so ‘cool.’”
Cacciotti graduated from high school after moving to North Carolina from New York during her senior year. Following high school, she enrolled at Wilson Community College, where she had planned to earn a degree in Spanish Interpreting and General Education. She states that she had no interest in welding at the time.
She said she was “intrigued,” however, when she learned that welding was available at the community college and decided to take a welding course.
“After that, I was hooked,” she said.
She moved to Bladen County in the summer of 2013 and transferred to BCC.
“I really like welding and that is the only reason I have remained here in Bladen County,” she said. “BCC has an outstanding welding program, and I plan to stay until I complete my degree.”
She plans to complete two associate degrees — one in welding and the other in general education — by next spring. She hopes to graduate in May 2015.
BCC has had a number of winners in the state-level welding competitions over the years. A number of those winners have placed in the national competitions. Last year BCC student Chris Shifflett took second place in the national Job Skills Demonstration category.
SkillsUSA began as Vocational Industrial Clubs of America nearly 50 years ago. The name was changed in 1999 to SkillsUSA-VICA in 1999. VICA was dropped from the name in 2002. Skills competitions have been a vital part of the organization’s mission since two years after it was organized in 1965. Today SkillsUSA has more than 381,000 members.