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Port High skills students clean up

Oct 23, 2020
3 students from his school to land a gold medal at the Skills Ontario provincial skills competition in Toronto last week

GIS stage

PORT COLBORNE — They must be doing something right over at Port Colborne High School.

Last week skills students who had already proven themselves at the regional level headed to Toronto from across the province to participate in the annual Skills Ontario provincial competition.

Amongst them were three Port High students who would come home with gold medal finishes.

Both Grade 9 student Aidan Hawkins and Grade 12 student Cameron Lacelle picked up gold in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Team event while Grade 11 student Joel Snider landed gold in welding, the sixth such medal in the last seven years for the school.

joel NTW

“It’s great to know all the work we did paid off,” said Hawkins, explaining GIS consists of using computer mapping systems to analyze data with an eye towards problem solving. For the competition he and Lacelle had to input various locations of hospitals, police stations, parks, trails, grocery stores and libraries into a map of Hamilton; correlate those locations with population data; and identify areas in need of health and wellness improvements.

Beyond their course work the pair have routinely been practicing after school to prepare for last week’s competitions. Both said the subject matter keeps them interested.

“It keeps me interested, engaged, focused,” said Hawkins. For Lacelle, who finished with a provincial silver last year, the competition landed his a $500 scholarship, as he prepares to study geology at the university level.

“This kind of helps me get on the right path,” he said.

Geography teacher Jonathan Fletcher said the two boys definitely deserved the medal, given how hard they worked to prepare.

“They had a lot of drive and determination,” said Fletcher, who was echoed by welding teacher Vic Barker in his pride for students.

Barker noted Snider has been working outside of class, at lunch and after school, seven days a week for the last two months, putting in 20 to 30 hours a week.

“He’s come a long way,” said Barker, who will see his welding student head off to the national-level competition on May 24 in Winnipeg. Until then there will be more practice time.

“He’s going back to sevens,” said Barker.

Snider has been taking welding classes for three years now at Port High.

“I’m interested in it, I like to take raw materials and turn it into a finished product,” he said, noting he was happy to beat out 23 other students at provincials.

“It’s pretty awesome,” he said.

Steve Henschel/Metroland