KAPAA — Kapaa High School senior Cruz Hillstrom is heading to Kentucky in June to represent Hawaii at the Skills/USA National competition.
“Kekoa Eisenhour is supposed to make the trip,” said Ryne Terao, Kapaa High School instructor. “He won first place at the Skills/USA Hawaii competition, but can’t make the trip, and it was agreed that Cruz, who won second place, would represent Hawaii.”
The two seniors were part of three Kapaa students who participated in the Skills/USA Hawaii competition that took place on Oahu.
“I also took along Jolette Miner-Ho,” Terao said. “She is the first female student from Kapaa to participate in this type of competition, and she did well. This sets us up for the next competition.”
The students said the state competition involved a written test based on the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence, and the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation, and participation in a practicals section that included tasks like valve stem diameter, valve seat diameter, and differential gear backlash.
“The National competition is pretty much the same format,” Hillstrom said. “The difference is that there are 90 questions compared to the 50 we had at the state. We also have to go through six practical stations instead of the four at states.”
The agreed that they were both nervous entering the competition.
“But Mr. Terao prepared us well,” Hillstrom said. “He’s been to several industrial arts state level competitions before so he knew what we had to do. The testing part is alright, but during the practicals, they watch how you perform the tasks.”
As part of their earnings from the competition, the students each received a medal of honor, Eisenhour getting a gold, and Hillstrom receiving a silver medallion. Each was accompanied by a scholarship from the Universal Technical Institute.
Eisenhour earned a $15,000 award while Hillstrom was presented with a $7,500 award.
“But the UTI scholarships are good only at their school,” Eisenhour said. “I’m planning on attending Weaver State in Utah.”
Hillstrom agreed, noting they also received tools as part of their earnings.
“We also received scholarships from the University of Hawaii for $1,000 for two years,” Hillstrom said. “I plan to use that when I go to the Kauai Community College, studying automotive, of course.”
Terao said they are currently fundraising to help Hillstrom get to Kentucky, and a GoFundMe account has been established.