Clarkston, GA – Georgia Piedmont Technical College students proved they’re at the top of their games by earning first and second place medals at the national SkillsUSA competition held in Atlanta recently. Thirty-one-year-old Maghen Hicks of Monroe, Georgia picked up the first-place gold while 25-year-old Victor Castro-Garibay of Conyers and 52-year-old Subhadra Gupta of Morrow are donning second place silver medals. Hicks earned her hardware in the medical math competition while Castro-Garibay and Gupta got theirs through the 3D animation and visualization event.

Hicks was skeptical about participating in the SkillsUSA program while pursuing her practical nursing diploma at Georgia Piedmont Technical College. After all, her life is busy enough being a wife, a mother of two little ones, an active church member, and an avid gardener. It was her program director, Denise Beckford that gave Hicks the extra confidence she needed to compete in SkillsUSA.

“I love math and numbers just make sense to me,” Hicks said. “Everything you need to answer the question is right in front of you. There are no assumptions. You’re either right or wrong. I was confident in my ability to do well and as I’ve told Ms. Beckford, ‘I could see her face on the paper, and I couldn’t disappoint her.'”

“I pursued it because Ms. Beckford felt that I could handle it,” Hicks said. “She has encouraged me every step of the way and because of her, and by the grace of God, I won the national competition.”

Maghen Hicks showing gold medal
June 23, 2023 – GPTC student Maghen Hicks at the national SkillsUSA competition in Atlanta.

Victor Castro-Garibay is taking his knowledge of computer repair and refocusing on a career in the booming 3D animation field.

“I was fixing computers for schools and businesses,” Castro-Garibay recalls.” After four years, I started to feel depressed. Animation was something I felt interested in, so I decided to give it a try.”

Silver medalists Victor Castro-Garibay and Subhadra Gupta
Victor Castro-Garibay (left) and Subhadra Gupta show off their silver medals from the 3D animation and visualization event.

Subhadra Gupta has a similar story.

“I used to work as a front-end designer and developer in an IT company focusing on UI and UX,” Gupta said. “My tendency was always toward a more creative aspect so when I felt stagnant, I took the plunge and joined GPTC to delve deeper into the design field and try to get wings for my creativity. I changed my area and started a new career path to chase my dreams.” Gupta hopes to get an internship and an in-field career in 3d animation, special effects, videography or photography.

Both men added that winning silver medals on the national stage meant a great deal.

“I was having a lot of self-doubt this year and winning second place helped get me out of that headspace,” Castro-Garibay said.

“It introduced me to a new ME whom I never knew,” Gupta said. “Now I know my capabilities after participating and winning.”

Castro-Garibay is scheduled to graduate this fall and Gupta is expected to finish in June of 2024.

In addition to the contest arena, SkillsUSA is phenomenal resume fodder and helps students learn the value of networking and building relationships, which can be tough for natural introverts like Maghen Hicks.

Maghen Hicks
Maghen Hicks’ mathematical acumen earned her the gold medal.

“One on ones, I’m comfortable, but large groups are not my forte,” she said. “I’m glad to have gotten out of my comfort zone and would encourage other students to pursue Skills.”

All the competitors are quick to point out that they could not have been successful without the support of many people, including their instructors, cohort and advisors. Hicks even acknowledges a former boss. Prior to entering the practical nursing program in fall of 2021, she worked at Chick-fil-A for nine years; she says the manager there was an inspirational leader who gave her the confidence needed to enroll at GPTC. Once she passes her National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), Hicks will join the Piedmont Athens Regional’s neuroscience unit.

SkillsUSA is nationally recognized as the premier competition for middle, high school and college students pursuing careers in the trade, technical, and skilled service industries. Students compete in their respective fields at the state level and the gold medal winners there go on to the national stage.