North Point grad wins silver medal in national Skills competition
Charles County winner displays passion, knowledge of early childhood education
North Point High School graduate Jewel Washington said her dream is to help young minds explore their world. Her passion for early childhood education has now been recognized on a national stage.
Washington, 17, won the silver medal at the 52nd Annual National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC), held in Louisville, Ky., June 20-24.
“Jewel is always very professional. She represented our school and county extremely well,” said Melissa Palmer, North Point education instructor.
Washington was one of 14 Maryland students to win a medal in the competition, and the only one from Charles County.
Elizabeth Lopez and Fiona Quenano, also students at North Point High School, placed fifth in the American Spirit competition, and Alyssa Rabasco, a student at the Robert D. Stethem
Educational Center, won eighth place in Employment Application Process.
SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit student organization that promotes and encourages career and technical education. Its mission is “to empower members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens,” according to the SkillsUSA website.
Approximately 6,500 state SkillsUSA contest winners — from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands — competed in the SkillsUSA Championships in 87 different trade, technical or leadership fields.
Contests are run with the help of industry, trade associations and labor organizations, and test competencies are set by each industry, according to the SkillsUSA website.
In order to compete, students must first place in their regional and state competitions. This was Washington’s first year competing.
Washington placed second in the regional competition held in February, and first in the SkillsUSA Maryland competition held in April.
“North Point swept the state competition for early childhood education; we won first, second and third,” Palmer said.
Only first place winners go on to compete in the national competition.
“I was shocked; I was so excited, because my instructors have been really supportive of me, but I couln’t believe that I was going to be competing in the nationals,” Washington said.
In the Early Childhood Education competition, students must demonstrate their knowledge of developmentally appropriate practice and their ability to design and implement learning activities for children ages 3 to 5, by preparing a written lesson plan and taking a written test that assesses their knowledge of child development and effective teaching strategies, according to the SkillsUSA website.
“She spent hours in her room practicing. While everyone else was going out to dinner or the museum, she was working on her lesson plans,” Palmer said.
Washington said she felt she had done well, but was surprised when it was announced she had come in second.
“I had expected to place in the top 10, because I knew I had done my best and I thought I had done enough to get a certificate,” Washington said. “But people from around the country were competing for this.”
When her name hadn’t been called by the time they announced third place, Washington assumed she hadn’t placed in the top 10. When they called her name for second, she said she was stunned.
“When they said my name for second [place], I just sat there,” Washington said. “It was just so surprising. I’m never going to forget that.”
Washington joined the education program at North Point, one of the 17 science and technical programs at the school, with a focus on early childhood education.
“I have a large family, and when we were exposed to all the career options at North Point, early childhood education was the only one that went along with my personality,” Washington said.
Washington had the opportunity to work at the licensed daycare for 2- to 5-year-olds operated by the school, which she said definitely helped her with the competition and helped to cement her future career goals.
“I think this age is very important, it’s critical to their future development,” Washington said. “You can walk in every day and know that you’re making a difference in their lives.”
Washington said she will be attending the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., in the fall, and plans to double major in early childhood education and psychology.
“I either want to own my own early childhood center or work in therapy with children in this age range,” Washington said. “I haven’t figured it out yet, but my ideal career would be to do both.”
Washington said she is grateful to the children she’s worked with, their families, and her teachers.
“I feel like this field has made me a better person,” Washington said. “They have really had an impact on me.”
Palmer said Washington has all the essential qualities of an educator.
“She gets it; there is an aspect to teaching that you just can’t teach someone, and she has it,” Palmer said. “If she chooses to go into teaching she will be a phenomenal teacher.”
Jewel Washington, center, wears her silver medal from the national SkillsUSA competition, along with North Point High School education instructors Nicolette Kirby, left, and Melissa Palmer.
Jewel Washington, a recent graduate of North Point High School, holds her certificate for winning second place in the national SkillsUSA competition in early childhood education.