West Salem students take gold in medical, robotics competitions

West Salem High School’s winning EMT team at from the 2022 SkillsUSA national competition, from left: Natalie Stauffer, Madison Wilch, Lt. Jennifer Stanislaw, Advisor, Alexis Williams (Courtesy/Salem-Keizer School District)

Local students are shining a little brighter this summer after taking home gold medals in a national competition. 

West Salem High School’s emergency services program and robotics team competed in the SkillsUSA national competition, held in Atlanta Georgia June 20-24, each winning one event.

The organization is a partnership between students, teachers and industries with an aim at ensuring a skilled workforce. The competition showcases skills related to traditional career technical education classes. The program serves more than 333,000 students and instructors a year. 

“We’re so proud of them,” said Greg Smith, who teaches and mentors the robotics team at West. “There were 30 teams there and it was the first time an Oregon team has won the gold.”

To earn it, students had to build a robot that could pick up donut-like shapes, place them on a pole and then balance on a teeter totter. Plans for the robot had to be submitted and students faced an interview round where even an untucked shirt could lose them points. 

“They really focused on the professional aspect,” Smith said. 

Alexis Williams is already a professional. The 2022 West graduate recently completed the tests required to be a licensed EMT in Oregon–days after competing with her team at SkillsUSA.

The EMT competition consisted of several stations ranging from spinal stabilization to airway management. The last station asked students to assess a patient–in the form of a mannequin– and provide proper medical care, all within 15 minutes.

“The first stations were kind of easy,” Williams said. “But when you get to the patient, that’s when everything you’ve learned comes into play. It’s just a lot.”

West Salem High School is one of the few in the state that have an EMT program, said the program’s leader, Jenn Stanislaw. 

Students take courses each year of high school including public service and medical terminology, culminating in a year-long EMT course as seniors, according to the program website.

The program, Stanislaw said, started in 2013 and competed for the first time in 2019, making it to state. The next two years saw in-person competitions halted making 2022 the first year the team made it to nationals.

“It was our first showing and I’m just really proud of them,” Stanislaw said. 

In total, the two teams earned two gold medals–one in the mobile robotics high school division and the other in the emergency medical technician demonstration. 

They were the only teams in Oregon to take home gold medals. 

“When you go, you have these magnet and technical high schools,” Smith said, “so for just a regular high school to win, it was really something. It’s a big accomplishment.” 

Contact reporter Caitlyn May at [email protected].

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