by Lisa Bielmeier
When Niagara-Wheatfield junior Raymond Delucci decided to come to the culinary arts program at the Niagara Career and Technical Education Center, he got a lot more than he bargained for.
"I always had a love of cooking and my mother and I would cook together all the time. She suggested that I think about going to Orleans/Niagara BOCES to study culinary arts. I wasn't sure, but it was the best choice I could have made."
Not only did he thrive in the classrooms of Bob Ihle and Lisa Cook, he started on a path that would lead him to being the first New York State Skills USA officer from the Niagara Career and Technical Education Center in its history.
Skills USA is an organization for high school and college students whose focus is to empower its members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible citizens. When Ihle approached Ray about going for an officer position in the organization, it was obvious he saw those traits in his student. "Ray is a hard worker that has a passion for doing his best and helping others. He has natural leadership ability, and he is a very consciousness and thoughtful. I knew he was a perfect candidate."
"I like being in a leadership position," says Ray. "I am an Eagle Scout, and I have always had an interest in student government. When I went to the Fall Leadership Conference in Syracuse, I talked to the current officers and it definitely seemed like something I would be good at."
Ray started his campaign as Regional Area 1 president. When he did not receive the nomination, he did not let that deter him from trying for secretary at the state level.
"It was a tough road, but I was lucky to have my friends help me campaign and, of course, the support of Mr. Ihle and the Skills USA advisors at my center. The staff here is amazing. They really care about us and want us to be the best that we can be," he said.
After several grueling days of campaigning at the State Skills USA competition, giving speeches and being interviewed, Ray was elected the winner by his peers. "I remember just waiting for the announcements and saying a little prayer that if this was God's will, I would win. I was so relieved. It was the hardest thing I have ever done."
He is looking forward to going to the National Skills USA Competition in Kansas City, Missouri, where he will meet with all the state officers from across the U.S. He is also keeping his eye on the prize for his education.
"One of the great things about going to BOCES is that is lets you see what you are good at and how to succeed. I know now that after graduation I will be going on to college and studying to be a chef. My hope is to be a master chef and own my own restaurant," he said. "I feel like I have all the tools to be successful thanks to my experiences here at BOCES and the support of my family and friends."