Incoming Ramona High School senior Seth Levy, 17, is no stranger to SkillsUSA. He’s been competing within the organization each year since he was a freshman, growing his expertise in all things motorcycle.
A recent journey brought Levy to Louisville, Ky., where he competed in the SkillsUSA National Championship competition, and placed second in the nation, for motorcycle service technology. The national competition consists of thousands of state contest winners, coming together to compete against each other and determine the best of the best.
SkillsUSA is a national, nonprofit organization that pairs students, their teachers, and industry leaders in a competitive environment, with the goal of building and ensuring America’s workforce. Students are timed while working at different stations that showcase different skills, in various fields, including cooking, mechanics, machining and drafting.
SkillsUSA supporters like shop foreman Clint Bornholdt of San Diego’s Harley Davidson shop on Morena Boulevard said it’s about inspiring and encouraging teens to excel in hands-on industrial arts programs, many of which he believes are slowly fading away.
Bornholdt worked with Levy and other students to make sure they were prepared on competition day. Bornholdt said, aside from Levy being a “kick-ass smart kid,” his success boils down to time in the seat.
“It’s getting familiar with tools, the functions of the computers, the workings of these motorcycles, to get an idea of troubleshooting or diagnosing the bike,” he said.
Placing second was no small accomplishment for Levy, who competed against other top students specializing in servicing motorcycles. Levy’s years of training from Ramona High School teacher Robert Grace and Harley Davidson helped prepare him for just about anything involving motorcycle service.
“Some of the things we had to do (were) rebuild a fork, remove and replace a front wheel, replace a steering head bearing, bleed brakes and remove and replace spark plugs and adjust the drive belt,” said Levy.
The competition also included taking a theory exam and writing a repair order.
Levy credits Grace and Harley for showing him, step by step, how to do things.
“I mastered it by doing it over and over again,” he said. “I, for the most part, knew what to do at each station.”
Learning the ins and outs of repairing a motorcycle isn’t the only thing Levy is taking away from this experience.
“I learned how to stay focused on one thing at a time, with a time limit, and if you get frustrated, just take a quick breather and calm down,” he said.
Grace went to Louisville with Levy. At a recent school board meeting, Grace showed trustees the silver medal Levy won after competing for two days against 28 other state champions. Levy qualified for the nationals by earning the SkillsUSA California State Champion title in motorcycle service, said Grace.
“He represented us very well,” said Grace, adding that about 13,000 people attended the national event that attracted students and teachers in “every area you could think of … it was phenomenal.”
Thanks to Levy’s hard work and determination, Ramona High School will be awarded a new Harley Davidson from the company. It will be used for training purposes for Grace’s students.
Levy’s performance also helped earn him a scholarship at Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI), where he will attend classes after graduating high school next year. Being among the top students in the nation for motorcycle service will no doubt give Levy a running start on his future.
“My ultimate goal is to get on a factory race team, to be a mechanic for a rider, or just the team,” he said.
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