Laila is a senior completing the Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering Program of Study at Worcester Technical High School and was elected to serve as National Parliamentarian of SkillsUSA. Having already served as SkillsUSA Maryland State President, Laila ran for national office and was elected through a formal elections process in the SkillsUSA House of Delegates during the 53rd annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference held in Louisville, Ky. She also placed fourth in the nation in the Prepared Speech competition.
How does the SkillsUSA program prepare you to enter either college or a career?
SkillsUSA allows you to learn about yourself as a leader and as a student, and gives you many tools, like the SkillsUSA Framework to apply to your student and/or professional life. Essentially, the SkillUSA Framework describes the balance needed between personal skills, work skills, and technical skills. It was developed by business and industry representatives after they described a world class worker. The Framework encourages self-motivation, responsibility, and 17 other essentials that businesses and industries look for in a worker. SkillsUSA also gives you the opportunity to learn valuable leadership skills. While many others workers may have the skills to complete a certain trade, like weld, not every welder is a leader and SkilllsUSA helps students to develop those technical and leadership skills simultaneously.
What academic subjects are important to your success in SkillsUSA?
Chemistry is the most important academic subject to me. I love chemistry and even had an internship in a chemical lab working with solutions, standards, and testing all sorts of things. I know chemistry is something I want to pursue in college an d am thinking about majoring in Chemical Engineering, so it’s a very important class for me. Additionally, math, specifically, AP Calculus, is really important. Math and science just makes most sense to me and I like to think that I have a very analytical approach to these subjects, pulling out numbers and patterns. That doesn’t mean I don’t think my English classes are not important. Because I participate in SkillsUSA prepared speech competitions I also really like my writing courses. Writing and public speaking are not only fun, but I know I will need them in my career as well.
How do your SkillsUSA courses and activities differ from your traditional high school courses and activities? Do you apply the theory you learned in your high school math and science courses?
I think the biggest difference is that at the technical high school I’m in a very specific program for engineering. I have such incredible and passionate teachers who make learning fun. We also frequently complete project-based assignments, at least once every week. Because I’m such a visual learner, I like the projects, and it shows me how I can apply these skills in a real life scenario. The projects at the technical school connect strongly with what I’m learning in class.
What is the most exciting thing you have learned or have done with SkillsUSA or your CTE program?
Over the course of my four years with SkillsUSA, working and competing at the national office level is the most exciting. I’ve been able to do more because it is at the national level. I also campaigned for national office. Even though I never won gold at the national level competition in prepared speech, I think it’s important to learn from your mistakes and experiences, and that is how I’ve found the motivation to constantly improve.
How did you fit both your academic and SkillsUSA courses into your schedule?
I knew my schedule was going to be challenging compared to my older sister's, because I was balancing classes at two schools. I remember going to my guidance counselor very early on and asking, "how can I fit it all in?" Because I went in early enough, they were able to schedule some of my required classes at the right time, and not during my engineering classes. I still have a heavy work load with AP classes, engineering, sports, and SkillsUSA, but I have expertly learned how to best mange my time, all while still absorbing my courses, and still balancing my life. My agenda is my best friend and being organized is really important because you can visually see everything and know that it is definitely doable.
What would you tell incoming freshman about SkillsUSA?
That they need to join! First, I would tell them all about my experience and how I grew up in the organization and encourage them that they can do it too! I would also talk about all the friends I have made across the country. I met two people at nationals my freshman year and now we are all national officers.The connections you make are irreplaceable and you really do gain a whole new perspective when you meet people across different states. Overall the whole experience has been so valuable in trying to better yourself as a person and as a leader. I really want people to join Skills USA!