Candace Tingle displays the pin design that won a gold medal at the Skills USA competition June 28 in Kansas City. Photo by David Grace.
BLOUNTVILLE — Kylie Burkey has done something no other Sullivan Central High School student has ever done, and probably something no other Tennessee student has done.
She won first place in the national Skills USA cosmetology competition June 28 in Kansas City.
What’s more, Kylie, a 17-year-old rising senior from the Indian Springs community, has a chance to win state and nationals again next year.
But it gets better for Sullivan County schools and another student.
In addition to Kylie, Candace Tingle from the Colonial Heights community and a student at Sullivan South High School won the Skills USA high school gold medal. Hers is for pin design.
Kylie, who said she has a 4.0 grade point average at Central, plans a career in cosmetology. Before Christmas, she is on a trajectory to reach 1,500 hours of practice, which would allow her to go to Knoxville over Christmas break and take the cosmetology licensing test.
After seven straight wins at the state level and 20 years as a cosmetology instructor at Central, Avery Putney finally saw one of her students win the gold. She doesn’t know of any other Central or Tennessee winners, at least in two decades.
“I’ve always loved doing my hair, and other people’s, since I was really young,” said Kylie, who began taking cosmetology classes at Central her freshman year.
As a state winner this year, she has two years free at any Tennessee Technology Center. She said she may pursue her instructor’s licence at the TTC in Chattanooga, but she plans to study business and marketing in college.
“I want to go to college for business and marketing. I want to open my own shop,” Kylie said.
As a national winner, she got a $100 Sally Beauty Supply gift card, a $250 pair of scissors, a tablet, clippers, curling irons and other items.
During the contest, she said the bronze and silver medals were not the ones she expected and that she was surprised when she won.
”I didn’t really think I had placed,” Kylie said. She said she thought she did a good job, her best, but didn’t know how the judges would rate her and others.
“I felt like I had done a good job when I was competing,” she said. “I felt like I had done my best.”
Likewise, Candace, 17 and a rising senior at South, said she was surprised when her name was called as a gold medal winner. Last year, she finished fifth nationwide.
“I was nervous, getting anxious and getting a little scared,” Candace said. “It was just crazy having the whole section of Tennessee cheering for me.”
She plans to compete next year and said she likely will pursue a college degree in interior design from Appalachian State University.
Unlike Kylie, who worked on mannequin hair on a “long hair design updo” at the competition, Candace’s pin creation was done back in 2012. It was judged the best in the state and then the best in nationals.
“It has a sliding race car with the No. 16 because Tennessee was the 16th state,” Candace said. The pin also includes the Volunteer State nickname and a banjo.
Candace, who won the TTC prize at the state level, at the national competition won a gift card from Lowe’s and Skills USA competition pins from all 50 states. Candace said she may use the TTC time for her base college classes if possible.
Danny Arnold, her graphic design and digital imaging teacher, said the logo from the pin has drawn the attention of Bristol Motor Speedway officials and has appeared on Facebook and Twitter.
Since he began teaching at South in 1997, Arwood said the school has had eight gold, three silver and three bronze medals at Skills USA.
Career Technical Education supervisor Bo Shadden said two Skills USA gold medal winners from one system is likely a rare accomplishment.
Tingle was the only competitor from South this year at Skills USA. Others from Central who placed in Skills USA nationals were:
• Britany Johnson, a graduated senior who won fifth place in nail care. Her nail model, rising junior Alex Sapleton, plans to compete in nail care next year;
• Graduated seniors Black Stratton, Hunter Fitzgerald and Jordie Hill, who placed eighth in chapter display;
• And Graduated seniors Andrew West and Taylor Campell, who placed 13th in promotional bulletin board.
Kylie and Putney said that without a $1,000 scholarship Kylie won, the competition trip might have been canceled.
The Central student competition total trip cost of $11,000 was offset by Kylie’s scholarship, for which Kylie and Putney had to write essays.. The other $10,000 came from selling candles, donations, an annual golf tournament and Sullivan County Department of Education funds.
Susan Necessary and a friend took an equipment van, while Putney and her husband, building trades CTE instructor Lloyd “Sport” Putney, each drove a van carrying the students.
“Both teachers took time out of their summer — no pay — and took these kids to compete and take care of them while we were in Kansas City,” Necessary said.
Arwood said fundraising at South included talent shows, candy sales and donations.
Among other Skills USA winners from the Tri-Cities, Crystal Allen from Johnson City and a student at Tennessee Tech Center at Elizabethton was awarded the college/postsecondary silver medal in nurse assisting.
In addition to the rankings, Allen, Candace and Kylie, along with the Central’s Britany and the Central chapter display team, received Skill Point Certificates.
Those were awarded in 86 occupational and leadership areas to students who achieved a high score as defined by industry.