Vincent “Vinnie” Latona was SkillsUSA national champion in internetworking. Photo by Victor Moreno

It’s a first for Maricopa.

Vincent “Vinnie” Latona earned a gold medal for internetworking in the SkillsUSA National Championships in June. He represented not only Maricopa High School but also the state of Arizona.

SkillsUSA creates competition in more than 100 areas of career and technical education, ranging from 3D animation to welding, from cosmetology to robotics. Its overall focus is career readiness.

Latona earned his spot by winning the state competition in April. Last year, he placed third at state.

“Nationals was about what I expected it to be,” said Latona, who graduated this year. “The people who run our state competition run it so close to how the national competition is run, anyone who goes from Arizona has a really good chance at doing well at the Nationals.”

Braydon Sanders was also a state champion for MHS – his category was information technology services – and was a top-10 finisher at Nationals, which were in Louisville, Kentucky. It was his third year competing in SkillsUSA but his first at Nationals. His area focuses mostly on customer service and computer repair and maintenance.

“It was a pretty fun experience,” Sanders said. “One day you have nine different stations of things you have to do, and each one is designed around a scenario you’d have to do in the workplace. One’s a job interview, one’s repairing a computer, one’s just setting up a station, doing a consultation for if you were going to get someone to sign a contract.”

Latona, who will study computer science at Arizona State University, and Sanders, who has a scholarship to New York Institute of Technology, were part of the MHS Cisco Academy taught by Brad Chamberlain.

“These are two amazing individuals who worked very hard for this opportunity and represented MHS well,” Chamberlain said. “They have set the bar very high for all future students in the program.”

A state championship team of Brady Stamps, Anabelle Dayley and Katelyn Daley also finished in the top 10 for community service.

Braydon SAnders, a state champion this year for SkillsUSA, helped set up the City’s new Esports league. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Latona and Sanders credited Chamberlain with setting them up to succeed.

“[He] gave us all the curriculum we wanted and then was like, ‘If any of you guys want to stay together with the rest of the class, you can either do it all together or you can do it individually and go ahead of the rest of the class,’” Latona said. “So, at the beginning of this last year I decided to take all the curriculum, read ahead of everyone else, go ahead and see how far I could get it to go. I was able to finish all my work by the end of October, beginning of November for the first semester, and then second semester’s work I was able to finish by the end of February.”

Certified students who participate in 24PinTech get real-world experience in refurbishing and repairing computers for staff and students.

“He focuses on being very close to the kind of stuff you would do in the workplace,” Sanders said. “I was working on actual servers and stuff that kept parts of the school running. I was setting up actual classrooms. His was so hands-on and so workplace-oriented that it went directly into the competition. His class worked on getting certifications as well, and that kind of workplace readiness has been amazing for me.”

Four 24PinTech crewmembers, including Latona and Sanders, were hired by the City of Maricopa to establish an esports facility for leagues at Copper Sky. Esports are video game competitions that have spread worldwide. It has become so popular in the state, Arizona Interscholastic Association created an esports championship season this year.

This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.


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