Southwest Tech Goes to Nationals and Wins Bronze | Local News

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BENNINGTON — Southwest Vermont Regional Technical School’s Crime Scene Investigation Team won the high school bronze medal in the national SkillsUSA competition.

On June 22-23 in Atlanta, Georgia, Sierra Brown, Regan Hurley and Lauren Gervais competed against teams from other states at the annual event that showcases the work of students preparing for careers in business, technical trades and specialized services. The competition allows students who have won at the level of their own state to compete for recognition on the national stage.

To prepare for the competition, Gervais said the entire team stayed up until 12:30 p.m. studying the day before the competition to go over various CSI topics and procedures that could be part of the competition.

This study is in addition to the courses they took at Southwest Tech and their previous preparation for state and national competitions.

The first section of the competition is a written test consisting of 50 multiple-choice questions. They cover a variety of topics ranging from case law to the type of flies attracted to decaying bodies.

“A little awful, but it helps. Because if there’s some type of fly, it’s like it’s been there for a day or a week,” Brown said.

The second part of the competition includes scenario-based exercises. First, the team had 15 minutes to find, photograph and tag evidence at a crime scene. Then each team member had about 30 minutes to write a report on what they found.

Gervais said the students were all “aggressive towards each other,” but in a competitive and supportive way.

There were several aspects of the national competition that differed from the state level. The sections of the competition were organized differently and emphasized different skills. The team was told to process the evidence, not collect it. “So it was very different for us,” Hurley said.

The team was also used to writing more “complex” narratives for their crime scenes, according to Gervais.

At this point, the team was focused on doing well in the second part of the competition.

“If we missed the first part, we have to do one hundred percent on this part,” she said. “So we can at least rank, like, 20th.”

The effectiveness of their teamwork was put to the test in the second section. Fingerprint scanning was incorporated into the contest, and it was “kind of a surprise,” Gervais said. Luckily, Hurley already took a forensics course and had prior knowledge of fingerprinting. “So she taught us as we watched them.”

“We work very well together,” said Gervais. Their leader and teacher, James Gulley, said, “They all have a unique skill set” which keeps the team balanced.

The final section of the competition was “where I think we really gave our best,” Gervais said. Each team member did something different, and each task played to the team member’s strength.

Brown resumed collecting evidence; Hurley did fingerprints; and Gervais manipulated the blood sample.

“We didn’t see what the other was doing. But [the tasks were] in small side-by-side stalls,” Gervais said.

Even though the team worked diligently, they didn’t expect such a big win. Instead of anticipating a victory, they went to the aquarium the morning of the awards ceremony. They spent about 30 minutes getting ready, instead of meticulously dressing as they had for the start of the competition.

When it was time for them to be called on stage, Hurley stood alone while Gervais and Brown casually had drinks. Another student from Southwest Tech called them and urged them to get on stage as soon as possible because they won the bronze medal.

Now that the national competition is over, Brown and Gervais have officially graduated. Brown, of Mount Anthony Union High School, plans to become a game warden in Vermont after possibly joining the Air Force and earning his commercial pilot’s license. Gervais, from Burr and Burton Academy, aspires to attend community college and join the Coast Guard.

Hurley, from MAU, still has a year of high school before studying forensic psychology. She is also responsible for choosing which SkillsUSA teammates she will compete against next year. Gulley thinks Hurley’s teammates left big shoes to fill.

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