At the end of the national SkillsUSA competition, Kelly Bridegum had a silver medal in photography hanging around her neck. But it also marked a new beginning.
"I think I'm more excited about it now than when it first happened because people are giving me all this positive encouragement," she said.
Bridegum took her first photography class at Carson High School as a freshman five years ago and the shutters haven't stopped since.
"I like that I can create or capture anything I'm thinking or seeing," she said. "It's just an incredibly cool way to communicate."
During this year's competition in Kansas City on June 22-25, nearly 5,000 students, who won first place at their state conferences, competed in 77 different vocational events.
Along with Bridegum, who is now a freshman at Western Nevada Community College, two Carson High School students also placed among the top 10.
Chris McEachern and Todd Crowell, both 17, received ninth place in the video production competition.
Although it was the first year either of them participated in SkillsUSA, Crowell said he remained "cold as ice."
"I wasn't overly confident, but I wasn't nervous either," he said. "We just did what we had to do."
And they're better for the experience.
"I think we'll do a lot better next year," McEachern said. "We know more what to look for and what the competition is bringing."
As part of the competition, contestants were given three hours to create an original video. Crowell and McEachern were charged with creating a one-minute advertisement for the Kansas City Zoo, using the slogan: Do the Zoo.
Although faced with time constraints, neither was frustrated or impatient with the other.
"Todd and I are pretty much on the same level," McEachern explained. "We can kind of bounce ideas off each other."
SkillsUSA is a student organization serving more than 264,000 high school and college students and professional members.
Its purpose is to help train students for careers. And it's working.
Bridegum wishes to pursue a career in professional photography and McEachern plans to become an actor then a director.
Crowell hasn't yet decided, describing himself as "an indecisive youth."
Contact Teri Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 881-1272.
To see Kelly Bridegum's photos, see page A3 of the Nevada Appeal. Technical difficulties have thwarted our plans to show Todd Crowell and Chris McEachern's video online at nevadaappeal.com. We will let you know when it is available.
For more information on SkillsUSA, go to skillsusa.org.