NORWALK – After a successful showing nationally, the SkillsUSA program at Norwalk High School is gearing up for a several-month long holiday fundraiser.
Several of the students of Norwalk High’s SkillsUSA program recently returned from the 2018 SkillsUSA National Conference in Kentucky.
Advisor Ken Cook says that this was a personal best year for the program’s conference attendance.
“We had students competing in multiple competitions, from ‘Models of Excellence,’ we had restaurant service, pathway showcase with our engineering students,” said Cook. “In total we took seven students, three advisors, which for us was a personal record.”
The Norwalk students shined, earning a win in Models of Excellence – an achievement that put them amongst an elite group of the 24 SkillsUSA chapters nationally.
“The Models of Excellence is a really neat award because it’s the only award that’s community service based,” said Cook. “We mainly received it for a special project that we worked on with the City of Norwalk and the School District.”
That project was the production of a Prom for the district’s moderate to severe disability students.
“They have disabilities from autism all the way down to wheelchair bound,” said Cook. “The high school students don’t typically participate in a Prom. Some of them do, but for the ones that do they’re higher functioning. For the lower functioning ones, especially the autistic ones that have sensory issues, a prom is overwhelming.
“What people don’t realize is a Prom is also very expensive…a lot of times you have a kid that’s handicapped, and on top of that he’s poor. What we wanted to do is create something special for them.”
The prom took place at the Norwalk Arts and Sports Complex, with SkillsUSA catering the event at no charge.
“It was important for us to support that event,” said Cook.
Now back from Kentucky, and with students currently on summer break, Cook and the rest of the SkillsUSA Norwalk Chapter are starting to put together the pieces for the upcoming year.
One of those pieces involves toys; lots and lots of toys.
Ken, his students, and the rest of the SkillsUSA Norwalk team will be running a several month-long fundraiser that they are calling “Toys For Tacos.”
“Some people don’t have the funds for Christmas,” said 18-year-old SkillsUSA student Angel Meyers, who recently graduated from Norwalk High School and will shortly be attending at Cerritos College.
SkillsUSA Norwalk will be getting a little help from Lowes in the form of $4,000 to “impact the community.”
“Because of them...we’re gonna take that and basically give kids that need or want toys, and we’re gonna do that in exchange for tacos.”
“We’re going to take probably $2-3,000 dollars of that money; we’ve realized that return on investment for food is pretty decent,” added Cook.
“What we want to do is take our trailer out into the community, partner up with the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce, the Norwalk Coordinating Council - some strategic partners that we’ve already established -and what we want to do is cook tacos in their parking lot. A family comes in, instead of paying the bill, help out another family with some toys. Bring an unwrapped gift, and we’re going to be very generous with our food.
“Our goal is to take $2,500 of cash and turn it into $10,000 worth of toys.”
Cook says that they’re aiming to launch in September.
“Right now, we’re doing the plans…we will probably go till the day of Christmas,” said Cook.
While it may seem like a daunting task, the students of SkillsUSA are hungry and up to the task.
“I’m prepared, I’m well prepared,” said Meyers. “Honestly I just can’t wait to give back to the people that actually need it.”