My freshman year, my friend Faith introduced me to SkillsUSA, a now-defunct club run by the then-graphic design teacher Mr. Hernandez. I expected nothing, really. During the first meeting, I learned that we were to choose and prepare for competitions. I chose Quiz Bowl, which is essentially a team trivia game, because I had a decent bank of useless knowledge filling my head. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was signing myself into a cult.
Well, not really a cult. SkillsUSA merely aims to provide the tools to prepare high school kids for successful careers. But I’m not sure that there’s a better way to describe an organization that somehow led me to spend hours studying increasingly esoteric information about it. I chanted the SkillsUSA pledge with my friend Jordan, helped to make SkillsUSA board games, sat in kumbaya sessions with SkillsUSA friends. We were determined to win the competition and inadvertently got sucked into the whirlpool of SkillsUSA. After countless late nights of studying U.S. history, parliamentary procedure, current events in Africa and (of course) SkillsUSA, it was time for contests. The entire club woke up at 3:30 in the morning to pile into a bus to Waco. And then my Quiz Bowl team qualified for state. So a few months later, we headed to Corpus Christi, where we experienced the full brunt of the SkillsUSA cult force and where we found ourselves roundly defeated. But I digress.
McCallum’s SkillsUSA chapter doesn’t exist anymore. But its memories nevertheless remain nearer and dearer to my heart than possibly anything else that I have done here at McCallum. Somehow, my initiation into a cult my freshman year taught me the stressful joys of competition, the value of persevering dedication and, ultimately, brought me to my closest friends. If you’re anything like me, if you’re awkward, or you can’t figure out what to do with yourself, or you just don’t know anyone here, pick up an extracurricular activity. It doesn’t particularly matter what it is. But by the mere action of joining a cult, you will add so much meaning to your high school experience.