Wayne Community College has been given the honor of playing host to regional competitions for two prestigious student organizations.

The Goldsboro campus was chosen as the site for the recent N.C. Technology Student Association, or NCTSA, eastern regional conference and will play host to the SkillsUSA North Carolina East Regional Rally, set for March 8.

This is the first occasion either event was held at WCC, and to get both in one year is unprecedented.

“We were recruited to host both events, and we graciously accepted the opportunity,” said Dr. Ernie White, dean of WCC’s applied technologies division. “We have the opportunity to help these organizations and show those students what we have on campus. It truly is an honor.”

The NCTSA event, held Feb. 8, brought 324 students to the campus from 19 middle schools and 16 high schools to compete in 35 events.

The TSA holds a number of contests each year at the regional, state and national level. This year’s theme was “Model the Way.”

TSA is a national, non-profit organization of middle and high school students involved in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math programs.

“The Eastern Regional North Carolina Technology Student Association Conference provides students with the opportunity to test their skill through hands-on technology, engineering and design challenges and problems,” said Dr. Jerianne Taylor, NCTSA state adviser. “This is one of my favorite days of the year because we, as adults, are able to see firsthand how our students make connections to science, technology, engineering and design through practical real world applications and simulations.

“We really are planting the seeds for tomorrow’s workforce, and you can’t help but be excited about it.” 

This year’s event featured middle-school students racing solar cars and solving problems related to physics concepts, as well as other projects centering around STEM concepts, Taylor said.

The SkillsUSA rally is expected to attract 400 high school students from Raleigh to the coast. They will compete in 68 events.

SkillsUSA is also a nonprofit effort endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and has participants from middle and high schools as well as colleges. It covers 130 trade, technical and skills service occupations, the majority STEM-related.

“We’re excited to be bringing the regional conference here to WCC,” said Peyton Holland, SkillsUSA state director. “I’ve been on a lot of campuses, and this is first class.”

Holland said that in the last few years the east regional rally was the largest regional event in the state and typically draws competitors from around the state.

The SkillsUSA event next month is the last of five regional rallies being held in North Carolina. Students compete in a variety of leadership and skill contests, participate in leadership development workshops and explore the programs offered at the host colleges.

Both of the student events use spaces on the WCC campus and employ college faculty and staff as judges. WCC staff also will be creating medallions for the award winners in the TSA competitions.

“We want the students to have a good experience,” White said.