SJA News


Junior Wins National SkillsUSA Gold

Max Frechette ’20 of St. Johnsbury won a Gold Medal in Commercial Baking at the 2018 SkillsUSA Leadership and Skills Conference. He is pictured with his sister, Gwen Frechette ’18, who won the same national gold medal and scholarship last year.


St. Johnsbury Academy junior Max Frechette of St. Johnsbury won the national Gold Medal in Commercial Baking at the 2018 SkillsUSA competition in Louisville, Kentucky. Last year, Max’s sister Gwen Frechette ’18 won the Commercial Baking Gold Medal. She will attend The Culinary Institute of America in the fall with the full scholarship she won last year. Faculty member Chef Paula Bystrzycki ’80 acted as coach and mentor for both Max and Gwen.

According to the SkillsUSA website, at the SkillsUSA Championships, “more than 6,000 outstanding career and technical education students – all state contest winners – compete hands-on in 100 different trade, technical and leadership fields. Students work against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting and culinary arts.”

In the Commercial Baking competition, the 41 contestants were allotted 7 hours and 15 minutes (with a mandatory 30-minute lunch break) to produce items from seven categories: scones, chocolate chip cookies, danish, pate choux, white bread, pineapple pie, unbaked pie crust, and decorated cake. The contest also included a written test. Paula Bystrzycki ‘80, Max’s advisor as he prepared for the competition, said, “As a sophomore, Max was the youngest competitor that I have trained for this event. Gwen was a big influence and source of inspiration for Max. Watching her go through the process of preparing for the competition last year, Max had a clear understanding of what it would take to be ready for this level of competing. The countless hours of practice paid off when on the day of the competition, it was evident that his product was the best. To have Gwen witness her brother winning the same medal she had won, making it a back to back win, was very special for me.”

Several other SJA students also excelled in the national competition: Sean Guckin ‘19 and Jake Choiniere ’18, both of St. Johnsbury, placed 10th in Teamworks, and Orrin Masure ’18 placed 11th in Culinary Arts. Alexis Collins ’19 participated in the Prepared Speech competition. Gwen Frechette ’18 attended the competition as a state officer for Vermont SkillsUSA and was present to see her brother win.

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. However, offering opportunities is only one part of the formula for success; another key ingredient is the hard work of program leaders, teachers, and students who put in many, many hours of practice to rise to the top.  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 Max on his well-earned win!”

For more information on St. Johnsbury Academy’s award-winning culinary program, visit stjacademy.org/culinary.