Cranston student chosen as RI SkillsUSA president

The Cranston Herald ·

Fabiana Serna is a third-year student in the Medical Pathways program at the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center (CACTC) and a senior at Cranston High School West.

She can now add the title of president to her resume, having recently been named to that post for the Rhode Island chapter of SkillsUSA, a national organization which partners students, teachers, and industry leaders together in order to better prepare students for college and careers.

“I was sworn in at the end of the last school year and I will be president of the Rhode Island chapter until the end of this school year,” Serna said. “Rhode Island has a team of students that represent each school that has a career and technical program. I was elected to be a part of that team, and from there I was elected president.”

Serna attends monthly meetings with the state team and represents Rhode Island as part of the leadership team that attends the SkillsUSA national conference each June as well. This September she has already had the opportunity to travel and represent Rhode Island, as she visited Washington, D.C., to speak to the Senate.

“We were speaking on Perkins funding and showing the senators an example of the good that it does for career and technical education and why it was so important to get the funding reauthorized,” she said. “Our Rhode Island team chose to present our personal stories of how having the opportunity for career and technical education has helped us. I was also the emcee of the event. I told my story, speaking about how I want to go to nursing school and how being part of the Medical Pathways program at CACTC has given me an advantage over the average high school students who will graduate and just have a high school diploma.”

By the conclusion of her senior year, Serna will have earned several industry-recognized certifications in the medical field, including ENT, CNA, and CPR certifications.

“It just really gives you a leg up when you head to college,” she said. “You are way ahead of the typical college freshman.”

According to Serna, attending the national SkillsUSA conference in June is a big part of serving on the state leadership team.

“Going to nationals is kind of the first test of what it’s going to be like working together as a state team,” she said. “You learn more about each other in that week than if you hadn’t gone, and up to that point you had only met one time at the inauguration. You learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to work well together. It’s a very rewarding experience.”

Serna looks at the experience of the national competition as one that prepares the career and technical students to face the world after high school. Nearly 16,000 people are expected to attend the June 2017 event.

“When you attend nationals, you are competing against the very best of the best from the entire country,” she said. “There are so many people from all of the other states, and when you come home, you are ready to face the entire world after having faced the country.”

Steve Versacci is the SkillsUSA advisor at CACTC and he is impressed with the leadership skills that his Cranston students have shown, as well as the state leadership position that Serna has earned.

“I think that it’s great that these kids can really show the world what they are capable of,” he said. “I’m proud of their effort, their knowledge and their skill set. It’s so amazing to see who can bring what to the table and to have them showcase their abilities during that week to the leaders, to the state. Having one of our students be a state officer is a remarkable opportunity for us.”

CACTC Director Gerry Auth agrees and emphasizes the opportunities that a career and technical education can provide for students like Serna, especially when considering the industry certifications and college credits which can be earned while enrolled in their individual programs.

“The college credits and industry certifications really drive what it is that we do here, what we strive to provide for our students,” he said. “We had 292 [Rhode Island Department of Education] recognized credentials earned in 2016, and 106 students who earned college credits. We also had 415 students who earned concurrent enrollment credits. Career and technical education is a game-changer for our students and they know it. They are really seeing what this type of education can do for them when they’re preparing for college and for their careers, and they are choosing to complete one of our pathways programs in order to give themselves a leg up.”

Auth is thrilled to have the top Rhode Island leader at CACTC for the SkillsUSA program.

“SkillsUSA is one of the biggest career and technical organizations in the country and to have the state president be from CACTC is really such an honor for us,” he said.

As Serna looks ahead to her college plans, she is exploring medical programs.

“I am currently looking at nursing programs in-state, including Salve Regina, the University of Rhode Island, and Rhode Island College,” she said. “I am also considering a career that involves psychiatrics. I love the mind and how it reacts. I am hoping to combine my love of helping people with my love of fact and medicine. I feel very prepared for the future. I have gotten the skills I need to be successful while in the Medical Pathways program and through my leadership position with SkillsUSA. I know how to lead and how to manage, and how to talk to people. I know what to say, when to say it and how to say it. No matter what career I choose, we will always need to know how to talk to people.” 1


Fabiana Serna is a third-year Medical Pathways student at the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center and has recently been named president of SkillsUSA for the state of Rhode Island. In her tenure as president, she has already led her team in speaking to the Senate in Washington, D.C., hoping to push forward a vote on securing Perkins funding for continued emphasis on career and technical education for high school students. (Herald photo by Jen Cowart)


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