Machias students headed to two national academic, vocational competitions

Posted April 08, 2011, at 9:17 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — Some people may take a look at Machias Memorial High School and make the assumption that a small, rural school with only 126 students can’t make an impact.

Three teams of students have proven that assumption incorrect, however. Two teams took first and second place in a statewide competition for entrepreneurship and one took top state honors in a culinary arts contest. All three teams will be headed to national competitions.

MMHS houses the vocational programs for all towns in its service area.

“We are so proud of them,” instructor Brian Leavitt said. “This proves that some amazing things are being accomplished in small high schools.”

Brandon Raye, 17, of Marshfield, Brian Getchell, 18, of Roque Bluffs, Abby McCurdy, 16, and Caroline Proctor, 16, both of Machias, are heading to Orlando, Fla., later this month as part of a DECA — Distributive Education Clubs of America — competition focusing on entrepreneurship.

Earlier this year, Leavitt took four teams to Portland for a statewide competition where MMHS earned both first and second place honors. Each team is required to research and create a presentation that represents a marketing plan for an existing business.

Getchell and Raye, who came in second, worked on an advertising plan for Whitney Wreaths of Whitneyville. Once the team had secured the state gold medal, owner David Whitney arranged for the teens to meet with his advertising firm, Sutherland and Weston Marketing Communications in Bangor.

“We learned a lot from them,” Getchell said, “especially about how to present ourselves to the judges.”

Proctor and McCurdy, who placed first, produced a business promotion for Pacific Sun Wear. “For the nationals, we won’t really change anything in our presentations,” Proctor said, “except that instead of using plain old poster board, we’ve created a power point presentation.”

Leavitt said some of the teens raised the money by themselves for the trip and additional sponsorship was provided by Whitney and the Perkins Fund.

In Orlando, the teens will compete against 16,000 other high school teams in qualifying rounds. “It’s like trying to get into the major leagues,” Leavitt said.

Another team of culinary arts students is going in July to Anaheim, California, where they will also compete against hundreds of cooking teams from across the country.

The team of Morgan Look, 16, of Milbridge, Dylan Angiolillo, 15, and Brandon Gonzalez, 16, both of Machias, won top honors in Maine for a three-course meal. They cooked chicken scampi, lemon basil pasta, and papaya and blueberry salad with poppy-seed dressing.

Judges in California, however, will not be tasting that delicious sounding dinner. They will select a menu from three possibilities for the students to cook. The students will be timed and judged on presentation, taste and sanitation. The contest is part of the Family, Career, Community Leaders of America and is being funded by the school district.

Angiolillo said he has always wanted to be a chef and the FCCLA program has only reinforced that. But for some of the others, the experience of traveling and taking part in a national competition is the reward.

“We all like being in the culinary program,” Look said, “but I’m not sure we’ll all end up as chefs.”

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