ILWACO — Two Ilwaco High School students are going to a national life skills competition.

Sophomore Dakota Shepard and junior Jaymie Patana qualified for the national Skills USA competition. The pair will travel to Louisville, Kentucky for the competition in late June.

Skills USA celebrates a diverse array of life skills.

“I didn’t know how many things Skills USA had until I went to state,” Patana said. “There’s cabinetry all the way up to cosmetology. There’s even culinary. People do all kinds of skills.”

The pair will face up to 49 other students from across the country. Shepard will compete in plumbing and Patana will do screen printing.

“Skills USA is a fairly small club. It’s kind of like FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) and FFA (Future Farmers of America) because it’s life skills,” Shepard said. “There’s nursing, cooking, plumbing, carpentry, electricity. There’s a ton of different things you can do.”

Skills USA is somewhat new to Ilwaco, advisor Stephen Blasko said.

“It’s been really great to see both Dakota and Jaymie get involved in Skills USA,” Blasko said. “Seeing them make such a great commitment and performing so well has been a bonus.


Shepard joined Skills USA his freshman year. He’s qualified for nationals both years but this is the first year he’ll be able to attend the competition.

“Being part of the club since last year has been fun. I’ve gotten closer to some of my buddies that I did sports with and there’s people in it that I never thought I would connect with,” Shepard said. “We need more people to join the club.”

Shepard joined the club because of his dad, who works in construction and for a carpenters union.

“I used to do projects with him when I was little before he joined the carpenter’s union,” Shepard said. “I love construction.”

Shepard tried doing carpentry in Skills USA but realized he was good at plumbing and decided to focus on plumbing instead.

“I never expected to do plumbing because I like carpentry a lot,” Shepard said. “I really like the plumbing. It’s a skill that’s definitely good to have.”

Shepard got first place at both regionals and state. He had to work with PVC pipes and solder copper pipes; hook up a toilet and sink; and complete a pamphlet of questions about plumbing.

After he graduates, Shepard plans on joining the carpenters union his dad is in, and transferring to somewhere like Arizona.

“There’s a need for the skill trade. There’s a decline because the labor force is going down. It’s filled with a lot of older men and women,” Shepard said. “There’s a need for it in our generation because they are retiring and there’s a shortage of people in the workforce anywhere you go.”


Patana joined Skills USA for the first time this school year. She’s the first student from Ilwaco to ever qualify for screen printing at state or nationals, Blasko said.

“I jumped in right when the competition was about to start,” Patana said.

She joined the club after being encouraged to in an advanced industries class. One day, she was asked to try screen printing.

“I learned how to do it and I really liked it,” Patana said. “I ended up setting a record for how many shirts I can do in one period. The record before was 40 shirts in one period. I got 65.”

Patana got first place in both regionals and state. At regionals, Patana had to complete a pamphlet. At state, she had to put the emulsion on, straighten a register screen, make as many shirts she could in five minutes, and double-press the shirts.

“At the beginning, I was messing up with quite a bit of shirts but now I can do probably around 100 shirts and only mess up two or three,” Patana said. “I’m nervous for nationals because I don’t really know what to expect but it’ll be fun.”

Patana plans on going to college so she can become a veterinary technician. She also wants to have a screen printing business.

“I’ve always kind of struggled in school with core classes,” Patana said. “I figured out when I started taking trade classes I adapt to trades. It’s easy for me to learn them.”


Donations for Shepard and Patana can be addressed to Ilwaco High School’s Skills USA club.

Alyssa Evans is a staff writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact her at 360-642-8181 or

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