Students share their firsthand experiences with screen printing and SkillsUSA

This past year’s SkillsUSA competition brought together students from around the nation, where they demonstrated technical skills across a variety of disciplines.

On June 20-24, approximately 12,000 people gathered in Atlanta for SkillsUSA’s 58th annual National Leadership & Skills Conference. But they also came together for the highlight event, the SkillsUSA Championships, which ran from the 22-23. That event encompassed 108 skill and leadership competitions, including Screen Printing Technology.

Apparelist connected with a few of the SkillsUSA winners from that category to discuss their experiences not only as competitors, but also as students to the trade and industry.

Dusty Hart – Gold Medal, College

Among the college-age winners is Dusty Hart, a 19-year-old sophomore studying at Utah Tech University. Originally from St. George, Utah, Dusty loves to rock climb, play volleyball, and of course, screen print.

Dusty won the gold medal in the Screen Printing Technology Contest for his age level, a win he credits to his lineup skills. “Having lined up so many screens in the past, I was able to quickly get it done,” he says.

But he also points to his interactions with high school teachers and his current boss as two factors that have helped him grow his interest in the trade. “I started [getting involved with SkillsUSA and screen printing] in high school because of my graphics teacher,” Dusty states. “I enjoyed the process and the people it allowed me to meet. I actually won the high school state division my senior year but decided not to go to nationals.”

From there, it was his current boss that pushed him to compete at SkillsUSA this year. “My current boss was a national winner as well and thought I had a good chance,” he says. “I’m grateful for it.”


Dusty feels that the entire experience was fun and insightful. “Interacting with the judges was super fun,” he says. “They all had a ton of background and pointers on what I could be doing better and how they run their shops … [SkillsUSA] is a great program that I think deserves more attention on the national level. It’s filled with great people that care deeply about the contestants and industries.”

When he found out he had won a medal, Dusty was ecstatic. “[It] felt kind of unreal to win a national competition,” he explains. “Standing on the stage was super fun.”

As to what his future holds, Dusty is keeping the possibilities wide open. “As of now, I’m going to continue working as a press operator probably for the rest of college. After that, I’m not sure whether I’ll stick with it or try a different career.”

Nyx Shoemake – Bronze Medal, College

Also among the medalists in the college category is Nyx Shoemake, a recent graduate of Rolla Technical Institute. Nyx is from Steelville, Missouri, a small town known for floating and camping. While she doesn’t live there anymore, she does say the peace and quiet the small town offers is something special.

Nyx got into screen printing through school, where she was inspired by both her personal interests along with teacher input. “I got into it because I thought it would be cool and a challenge, so I took design academy at RTI and then got good at it my last year there,” she explains.

She adds that a teacher, Mrs. Yowell, specifically brought her to SkillsUSA. “[She] has all of her students join it, which I think is a good thing,” Nyx says. “I decided to compete because I like a challenge and it was challenging.”

Nyx feels the overall competition and experience was not only challenging, but helpful. “It was cool getting to hear all the tips and things [the judges] had to offer on advice,” she adds.

Of course, winning was a big part of that experience. Nyx brought home a bronze medal in her age group. “When I won a medal, I was shocked and didn't know how to think,” she says. “Apparently my teacher almost broke her hand cheering for me!”



Nyx Shoemake (left) and Dusty Hart celebrate their medal win in the Screen Printing - College category.

Carter Owens – Gold Medal, High School

College students aren’t the only ones that have a chance to compete at SkillsUSA. High school students are also a huge part of the program. This year’s winners include Carter Owens, who took home the gold medal for his age group.

Carter currently attends Pekin Community High School in Illinois. “My favorite part is the atmosphere of the town itself,” he explains. “The Friday Night Lights are super fun and a good way to interact with people I enjoy being friends with.” Carter also enjoys graphic design, going to the gym, and printing shirts in his garage.

“I was always into graphic design from a young age and once the pandemic hit, boredom hit as well and it came to me that I could start making T-shirts dirt cheap with my graphics on them,” Carter says. “Eventually it evolved into selling individual T-shirts and other apparel items to people around and outside the USA. My initial experience was touch and go for quite some time. [As] time went, I upgraded and added equipment that could better me in the arena of screen printing.”

Like many other students, Carter was introduced to SkillsUSA through a teacher. “I was introduced to the program by my amazing graphics teacher, Alyson Smith, who eventually became my advisor for the program,” he explains. “This was my first year of SkillsUSA. I decided to go into the competition to show others and present my talent and potentially have a chance to earn a title that would later help me in the world of screen printing.”


He feels that the whole experience was beneficial, and winning was the icing on the cake. “The experience was amazing in terms of how many competitions and arenas people could enter into, as well as the environment of having people who have the same knowledge as you with certain ideas, such as screen printing,” Carter says. “[Winning] first place at SkillsUSA has boosted my confidence in the workplace when I print. I feel accomplished, and it gives you an outlook on not just this certain technology, but the world outside.”

Leading up to the winning announcements, Carter admittedly felt a bit nervous. “The buildup to the podium at the closing ceremony was treacherous,” he states. “You have the gut feeling of, ‘Did I exceed their standards and above,’ or, ‘Was my performance slightly better than my competitors.’”

Luckily for Carter, those doubts were put to bed when his name was called, though it took some time for reality to sink in. “It took a while before I came to the fact that I was just awarded the no. 1 high school screen printer in the nation,” he says. “And the whole time, while I was at closing ceremonies, my family was sitting in a bed watching the livestream, cheering me on. Wow.”

Carter does plan to pursue screen printing going forward. “I have started to expand my equipment and I walked away with much more experience after the competition and pride in this arena of technology. We will see where the future takes me, but for right now I am sticking with this for as long as I can.”

Drew Crispell – Silver Medal, High School

Joining the other winners in the high school category is Drew Crispell, an 18-year-old senior at Wausau East High School in Wisconsin. He’s also enrolled at UW-Stevens Point at Wausau. It’s a town that caters to the winter outdoor enthusiast. “I’m born and raised in Wausau, Wisconsin, which is a town of about 30,000 and most well-known for its ski hill Granite Peak,” says Drew. “I love to spend my time in the freezing winter terrain park skiing at Granite Peak. I’m [also] very involved in the skateboarding community around town and have been skating for around four years now.”

In addition to his passion to ski and skate, Drew has also taken to screen printing, and it came via the skate world. “I first learned about screen printing two years ago through my personal skateboard brand ‘Invalid’ in order to cut costs down on my products,” he explains. “I initially had no clue how to begin, but after countless YouTube videos and multiple headaches, I had finally printed my first shirt. I then joined the graphics department at my high school and got a job at the local print shop in town.”


Skating might have initially brought him to screen printing, but it was his Graphics III course teacher Ms. Kysely who brought him to SkillsUSA. “Ms. Kysely recommended [SkillsUSA] to me at the beginning of my junior year, and I agreed to join not thinking much about it, but it was a great learning experience getting judged by judges who work in the industry,” Drew says. “I feel as if I’ve developed many new skills due to it.”

That doesn’t mean the competition came easy. “One of the hardest parts of this competition was not knowing what to expect initially yet trying to create a quality product in the time allotted,” Drew says of creating his silver medal-winning print. But coming off the win has been nothing but good for him. “Since SkillsUSA, I have started my own screen-printing business — Crisp Prints L.L.C. — and plan on going to college for graphic design.”