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Nov 16, 2009 Author: Bobby Martin

My visit to the SkillsUSA Ohio State Conference was thrilling, inspiring, educational, and gratifying. But never let it be said that Skills is all work and no play.

Many of my speaking engagements mainly involve being a race driver. I tell the audience what it's like to go 250 mph from a standing start in the quarter mile, which is usually followed by a spirited question and answer session. Other times, the audience or venue expects more. They're looking for motivation or inspiration. Such was the case with my Skills appearance on November 12th.

In the morning, I was privileged to join school administrators and instructors at the OTIESA meeting. I'm always impressed at gatherings like this with the passion and dedication that the participants have for education. The OTIESA group was very cordial and receptive. We had a great time. It looks like I'll be appearing at some of their schools soon, so stay tuned for updates.

My talk was scheduled for the Opening Session, which began at noon. About one thousand students were on hand for the session. A thousand high school juniors and seniors can be an intimidating audience for a speaker. But I have a special place in my heart for high school students. The fact is my high school struggles are vivid memories, and I feel I can relate to this group in a personal way. My subject was primarily about the information overload of today, filtering out the trash, and discerning the truth. I was also very happy to relate our team's victory at the U.S. Nationals to the Conference theme -- Champions at Work, Creating Opportunities. The students' response was great. But I was especially pleased to hear some of their comments in one-on-one encounters afterwards. SkillsUSA is made up of youth with vision and ambition and that's what makes it so inspiring. But even among a group like this, there are those with challenges to overcome. I spoke with a couple kids from broken homes who were abused as youngsters. The fact that they were at that conference with a vision for a successful future was a victory in itself. Awesome!

I was having such a great time that I just stuck around and hung with some of the Skills administrators and leaders. Then in the Evening Session it happened. Yes, we did the Chicken Dance. Now there was a dance for the students scheduled for the evening, but this wasn't it. This was the Final Session. We also did the YMCA dance, the Macarena, and a bunch of others. There were some lessons about respect and leadership in there, but high school students doing the Chicken Dance was the highlight for me.

Thanks to all the students, the student leaders, Ohio SkillsUSA, Mr. Kelley Kramer, and Director Mike Cowles for putting on a great event and inviting me to be a part of it.

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