PUSHING PAST WEAKNESS: Harden gains confidence, leadership edge from SkillsUSA program
Updated: Oct 26
As a junior at Fort Hayes Career Center in Columbus, Ohio, DaQuante Harden was not a big fan of public speaking. In fact, he was not very outgoing at school during his Fitness & Wellness classes, and he would often hesitate to start conversations with others.
This bothered DaQuante personally, as he recognized it as a personal weakness. So, when a
group of teachers gave an informative presentation about SkillsUSA Ohio—including its focus on communications, professionalism and leadership development—his ears perked up. Could this program possibly help him to come out of his shell?
Worth the shot DaQuante decided to give it a go and joined SkillsUSA Ohio. “I joined my junior year because I wanted an opportunity to grow and overcome my weaknesses. Also, I wanted to show it does not hurt to try new things,” he shared.
Upon first joining, DaQuante felt very out of place. As someone who didn’t prefer to converse with others, he found it challenging to fit in. Thankfully, his SkillsUSA Ohio advisor— Health Science Teacher, CPR & Fitness Instructor, Vicky Pate—had his back the entire time. “My advisor pushed me to be better as a person and a leader. She helped me push my weaknesses away by having me do speeches and giving me tasks she knew I would struggle with,” said DaQuante. “But she knew I was going to complete them because I do not give up.”
Since he was not into public speaking, DaQuante tended to hang out in the background and clown around a bit. But Ms. Pate knew he was better than that. “My advisor showed me how to act. I used to be the one that always clowned regardless, but now I know when I need to be professional and when it’s ok to clown,” DaQuante shared.
Personal growth, quickly
In a matter of months, DaQuante realized he was developing new leadership and speaking skills, and he was more open to learning new things. He credits SkillsUSA Ohio with his personal growth in both the areas of leadership and speaking. “If I was not introduced to SkillsUSA, I would not be talking to people right now, with confidence. I still do not like talking to crowds, but I am getting better,” he said. “I am also more comfortable with leading my peers and others on the right path.”
As he honed these new skills, DaQuante became more open to participating in SkillsUSA competitions. During his very first year in the program—his junior year—he was in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies Competition with SkillsUSA Ohio. “We placed 3rd in the 2019 Ohio South Central Regional Competition, and we placed 3rd at States,” he noted. “My senior year, we placed 2nd in the 2020 Ohio South Central Regional Competition, right before COVID happened. The feeling was great because my school was not known for placing in competitions.”
In addition to the competitions, DaQuante was able to participate in the weeklong 2019 SkillsUSA Ohio Summer Leadership “Campference” at The Ohio State University. Chapters send their high school members and advisors to the camp each summer to build their plan of work for the coming year, network, meet new people from across the state, participate in team work activities, expand their SkillsUSA knowledge, compete, earn their statesmen award and much more.
“My best memory with SkillsUSA is summer camp at Ohio State,” DaQuante shared. “We worked on the 20 keys essential for a successful life, all week. It was special because I started to be more open with people who I did not know. The biggest thing I had to overcome was being the only boy there from my school,” he said. “The experience was great. I learned that as long as you keep pushing yourself to greatness, you will succeed and be great in your future.”
Enjoying an edge to success
Now a 19-year-old freshman at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, DaQuante is studying Exercise Science with a minor in Business. He aspires to be a physical therapist and own his own facility.
“SkillsUSA prepared me to be open to anything that comes my way. I now go to school out of state, and I’m surrounded with different cultures. You should never just settle for what you know; always be open,” he said. “I am proud to say I have no weaknesses when it comes to talking or starting something of my own now.”
DaQuante feels better prepared to continue to achieve success because of the skills and academics he learned through SkillsUSA Ohio. He has already used these skills in a job at City Gear, and at his current internship with the YMCA and volunteer work at his church.
“SkillsUSA Ohio is like a big family you never knew you had. Each of them has helped me to become who I am today.”