Polk County Public Schools | May 18, 2021
Amy Hamilton continues to make history with her students at Sleepy Hill Middle.
Hamilton, who teaches technology and engineering, is the proud instructor of five Sleepy Hill students who recently competed in the SkillsUSA State Leadership and Skills Conference. Each captured a gold medal.
– David Cunningham, Gabriel Millman and Elaynah Myrick, winners of the Team Engineering Challenge
– Naomae Harmon, winner of the Pin Design event
– Hezekiah Mitchell-Marr, winner of the Job Skills Demonstration Open event
The statewide SkillsUSA competition, which was held virtually this year, featured students competing in a variety of trade, technical and leadership events.
Although SkillsUSA has an active membership at the high school and postsecondary level, there are only a handful of middle school chapters in Florida. Hamilton broke ground when she started the state’s first middle school chapter at Sleepy Hill about four years ago.
Because of COVID-19 and other challenges, Hamilton’s students were the only middle school chapter competing in the State Leadership and Skills Conference this year. Still, their medals were hard-won.
Each student had to earn a high score in their event to receive a medal and advance to compete at the national level in June. Two of Hamilton’s students — Harmon and Mitchell-Marr — made SkillsUSA history as the first middle schoolers to compete and place in their events at the state level.
Hamilton said she hopes that other Florida middle schools will get involved in SkillsUSA to provide more opportunities for her students to interact and compete with peers. However, she does take pride in being a trailblazer, and says that SkillsUSA officials have been very supportive of the Sleepy Hill chapter.
“It’s an amazing organization, I love what it does for the kids,” Hamilton said. “It teaches the kids about what they need to be a highly skilled professional — to be able to speak well, how to be adaptable, flexible. It shows them paths they might not have thought about. It makes them such well-rounded individuals. My students know how to create resumes already. These kids are going to be dynamic.”