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It’s not everyday that a high school student gets to participate in a skills competition at a national level. Even fewer get the opportunity to do it twice.
Red River Technology Center residential air conditioning student and recent Empire High School graduate, Ricky Curtis did and brought home some hardware to show for all his hard work.
Curtis spent two years in the residential air conditioning pathway at RRTC and was an active member of the SkillsUSA student organization, winning gold medals at the state SkillsUSA contests in both years.
As a first-year RRTC student, or junior in high school, Curtis advanced to the national SkillsUSA competition and competed against students with much more experience. He placed fourth.
The second time around, with another full year of training under his belt, Curtis brought home the silver medal in the national SkillsUSA Air Conditioning competition.
“I got pretty nervous on the day of the competition,” said Curtis. “But I was definitely more relaxed than the first year.”
Although familiar with the environment, Curtis still couldn’t be sure what he might face in competition.
“There were many different challenges this year and they added geothermal,” he said. “But Mr. Williams is an excellent instructor and really gave me all the tools I needed to succeed. He was probably more nervous that I was.”
Curtis is referring to Gary Williams, his residential air conditioning instructor at RRTC.
“What makes Ricky so successful is his interest in the program and his tremendous work ethic,” said Williams. “He was a leader in the classroom from day one and was never scared of anything I threw at him.”
Williams said he takes great pride in having a hand in Curtis’ training.
“Ricky may have been beaten at nationals but he’s the better technician by far,” said Williams. “He can do anything he wants and will be successful wherever he chooses to go.”
And Curtis knows exactly where he’s going.
“I’m going to continue working at Curtis Refrigeration,” he said. “That’s my dad’s business and I’ve been learning from him since I was about 11.”
Curtis said his success stemmed from a combination of his parents, Rick and JoAnn Curtis, and Williams’ support.
“I knew about HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) before I came to RRTC thanks to my parents,” he said. “Mr. Williams increased my knowledge in line with national standards.”
Curtis said Williams always found a way to make the nationally accredited program exciting.
“He taught us what we needed to know but he always incorporated fun experiments in the shop,” he said. “Yes, we have book work, but it’s all information that you can apply in the shop. It’s practical, hands-on learning.”
Curtis said he would encourage anyone to take the residential air conditioning pathway at RRTC.
“It’s a great trade,” he said. “People will always need heat and air conditioning, so there will always be work.”
Williams said that although he’s sad to see Curtis go, he’s excited about the legacy Curtis will leave behind and the future of the program.
“We had a great group of hard-working students this past year that will no doubt grow in the trade and become a success,” he said. “In 20 years, we’ll never see another student just like Ricky but we will see more who are just as special and successful in their own way.”
For more information about RRTC and the residential air conditioning program, visit www.rrtc.edu or call 580-255-2903.