Aims Automotive Students Triumph at SkillsUSA State Championships

Aims Automotive Students Triumph at SkillsUSA State Championships

Six of Aims Community College's collision repair and refinishing students soared to the top of the recent SkillsUSA Colorado Competition in Pueblo.

Aims Community College announced that six of its Automotive Collision Repair and Refinishing students soared to the top of the recent SkillsUSA Colorado Competition in Pueblo, sweeping the event with a haul of eight medals. The students now gearing up for the SkillsUSA Championships June 24-28 in Atlanta, Ga.

“They did fantastic and made us look great, ” said Mike Hanscome, automotive instructor at Aims and advisor for the SkillsUSA team. “They worked their butts off, and at the end of the week, it paid off. They all got to stand on the podium.”

Each Aims student who competed was placed in the top three of their category and received medals. In total, the team won eight medals in the statewide competition.

Aims medalists included:

Post-Secondary Collision Repair
  • Mario Saenz – Gold, first place
Post-Secondary Refinishing
  • Kayleigh Kerr – Gold, first place
  • Drew Ayres – Silver, second place
  • Jesse Manuel – Bronze, third place
Post-Secondary Facility Management
  • Drew Ayres – Gold, first place
  • Jesse Manuel – Silver, second place
  • Kris Ried – Bronze, third place
Secondary Refinishing
  • Lucian Simpson – Bronze, third place

The three gold medalists, Saenz, Ayres and Kerr, will represent Colorado in the SkillsUSA Championships in Atlanta — the first time any of these students have had an opportunity to compete nationally. 

One of the things that Saenz is looking forward to is the networking opportunities at the SkillsUSA Conference.

“I love meeting with a whole bunch of industry professionals and talking to them about their jobs, their companies and all the different technologies,” he said. 

Saenz has been working on the skills that will be tested at nationals. The extra practice is helping him attain his goals and continue to gain industry experience. Skills USA participants receive more one-on-one coaching and guidance from the instructors, including Hanscome and Kyle Cadarette.

“They are so helpful,” Saenz said. “They have given me some tips and tricks and have also given me a good amount of practice to allow me to sharpen my skills to show at the competition.”

Ayres encourages other students to participate in SkillsUSA. “If you’re in a position where you can go to this competition, you should do it just because it’s a free education.”

Ayres had wanted to make it to nationals in the refinishing category but placed second. He didn’t expect to win in the facility management event but was pleasantly surprised. He attributes his professional experience to his success in the event.

“I did good because I deal with management stuff daily,” Ayres said.

Ayres is researching facility management best practices and practicing scenarios to prepare for the competition. He hopes to return to the national competition next year to compete in refinishing. 

This is Kerr’s final year of eligibility to compete in SkillsUSA. She pushed hard to make it to the national finals and succeeded. In 2022 and 2023, she placed second in the state, and making it to first place is something she has been working on achieving.

“It’s like an addiction, you get here and you love it,” said Kerr. “Then you can’t stop.”

Kerr advises other students who want to compete in contests such as SkillsUSA, “If there’s somebody who knows something that you don’t, ask questions, make yourself better. Don’t sit around waiting for it to happen.”

The SkillsUSA Championships is the premier showcase of America’s most highly skilled career and technical education students. It’s also one of the world’s largest hands-on workforce development events. Held in conjunction with SkillsUSA’s National Leadership & Skills Conference each June, this event features over 6,000 state champions from across the U.S. competing head-to-head in 115 skilled and leadership competitions.

Aims Community College automotive degree programs are nationally recognized and certified in secondary and post-secondary educational systems with the National Automotive Technicians and Education Foundation accreditation. The Aims Automotive and Technology Center is on the Windsor Campus.

For more information on Aims Community College, visit

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