Cooper Leabo is just 17-years-old and recently completed his junior year at Lee’s Summit West High School, so he doesn’t know much about the history of SkillsUSA, a national-level competition for public high school and college/postsecondary students enrolled in career and technical education programs.
What Leabo does know is he will take part in the 50th annual conference that runs through June 27. Leabo will compete in the inter-networking competition June 25-26. SkillsUSA will take place in and around downtown Kansas City’s Convention Center. This year marks the 21st year the competition has held firm in Kansas City, but will move to Louisville, Ken. next year because it has outgrown the market here.
“I knew SkillsUSA has been around for awhile, but I didn’t know that it was that long,” Lebo said of SkillsUSA’s nearly two-decade long run in Kansas City. “I heard it’s a really big deal.”
Leabo, who is enrolled in the Missouri Innovation Campus at Summit Technology Academy, is spending his summer as an intern at Cerner Corporation. As part of the MIC program, students intern with a variety of businesses in the metropolitan area. Enrolled in the IT cohort of the Innovation Campus, Leabo also competed this past spring in the CyberPatriot competition in Washington, D.C.
Leabo’s instructor at Summit Tech, Lisa Oyler, said the experience competing in D.C. should bode well for Leabo at SkillsUSA, adding Summit Tech had two CyberPatriot teams that made it to nationals this year and Leabo was on a team that took third in the nation and he received a $1,000 scholarship from Northrup Grumman. He and five other students will return next year for CyberPatriot VII.
“Cooper is an excellent student,” Oyler said. “I wish I could have 50 more just like him. He is meticulous in his work and very motivated. His experience as part of Cyberpatriot nationals should help because he has been able to learn to work under pressure.”
Oyler said in addition to CyberPatriot and SkillsUSA, Cooper also competed in Netrider, a virtual competition conducted by Cisco Systems. There were 102 students in both the secondary and post-secondary competition and Leabo placed second overall. He took first in the Under-18 category, Oyler said.
“Sixty percent of the competition was college level,” she said, adding just last week Leabo passed his Cisco Certified Network Associates certification. “I expect all of these things will contribute to his ability to compete this week at SkillsUSA. I have had several students place in the top five in the last 11 years and I believe Cooper can win the gold medal for secondary students unless something unusual happens. Regardless, his future is bright.”
Also a member of the robotics team at Lee’s Summit West, Leabo is confident that he will do well in this week’s contest.
“I’m kind of nervous, but I’ve had some good courses at Summit Technology Academy that will really help me prepare,” he said. “I think that I can do pretty well.”