SJA News


SJA Student Wins Gold at National SkillsUSA Competition


Gwen Frechette '18 of St. Johnsbury won a Gold Medal in Commercial Baking at the 2017 SkillsUSA Leadership & Skills Conference. She is pictured with her teacher, Chef Paula Bystrzycki '80.


Gwen Frechette '18 of St. Johnsbury won the national Gold Medal in Commercial Baking at the 2017 SkillsUSA competition in Louisville, Kentucky. More than 6,000 career and technical education students from across the U.S. travelled to Kentucky to compete in 99 different events after winning gold medals in their respective home states.

In the Commercial Baking competition, contestants were allotted 7 hours and 15 minutes (with a mandatory 30-minute lunch break) to produce items from seven categories: decorated cake, pate choux, pumpkin quick bread, sugar cookies, pineapple pie and unbaked pie shell, and white bread in three forms. The contest also included a written test. Paula Bystrzycki '80, Gwen's culinary arts teacher, said, "Gwen worked very hard preparing for months before the competition. Throughout the day of the competition, she had to problem solve and adjust her plan to accommodate challenges. Her hours of time practicing at school paid off in a big way as she won a full-tuition scholarship of approximately $160,000 to the Culinary Institute of America. Gwen is well on her way to a very promising career and it was an honor to work with her throughout this process."

Several other SJA students also excelled in the national competition: Jacob Geil '17 from Monroe, New Hampshire, placed 6th in Cabinet Making, Brodie Talbot '17 and Jake Choiniere '18, both of St. Johnsbury, placed 10th in Teamworks, and Colby Bourgeois '17 placed 15th in Auto Refinishing. Alexis Collins '19 of Monroe, New Hampshire participated in the Prepared Speech competition.

SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical, and skilled service occupations, including health occupations. The organization's programs also help to establish industry standards for job skill training in the lab and classroom and promote community service.

Academy Headmaster Tom Lovett said, "SkillsUSA is an impressive program, and I am pleased that we are able to offer our students so many opportunities to excel at the national level. I am proud of all the students who competed in Louisville, and I am grateful to their teachers for all the extra time and effort they put in to prepare for this competition. Special congratulations to Gwen on her well-earned win!"

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