SkillsUSA Champions Spring 2012 : Page 12

“SkillsUSA provided all the things I needed in one pack-age … good friends, goals and a support structure.” Then, Carvallo adds, he began “a lot of silent thinking about what I’d done — going back and reanalyzing my whole life — and I think that’s what really helped.” Later, as his release drew near, Carvallo found himself thinking back to his return from the hospital and the lack of concern he’d felt from his peers. This time, however, someone was waiting for him. ‘Go big or go home’ Starting as a freshman at Centennial High School in Roswell, Carvallo joined the criminal justice program and, by default, SkillsUSA. Thomas Washburn was his instructor and chapter advisor. “We sat down and talked about what happened,” Carvallo says, “everything that’d been bugging me, and we worked on a plan for how I could improve.” Washburn, a 2011 finalist in the national Advisor of the Year program, adds, “As with all my students, I guided him through setting a direction in his career goals. Then I got him involved with SkillsUSA by having him come by my room in the morning to hang out, which is when most of the SkillsUSA leadership is hanging out. This gave him a great group of friends and role models.” Carvallo quickly went from viewing SkillsUSA as “something I just had to show up for” to something he looked forward to. “SkillsUSA provided all the things I needed in one package,” he says. “It provided good friends, goals and a support structure for everybody.” The student immersed himself in all aspects of the program, from social activities to leadership development. His metamorphosis was so impressive that Washburn encouraged him to run for state SkillsUSA office in 2011. But Carvallo had another idea. “I decided to run for national office,” he says. “Go big or go home.” The campaign was another milestone in Carvallo’s turnaround. “My name allowed me to make huge copyright infringements on the ‘Go, Diego, Go’ show,” he laughs, referring to an educational cartoon tied to the “Dora the Explorer” TV series. “I used the theme song in my speech and ended it with, ‘Will you be my Dora and go on this adventure with me?’” That question was answered during the Awards Ceremony of SkillsUSA’s National Leadership and Skills Conference, where Carvallo heard his name called as the new Region 2 vice president. “I was in shock,” he remembers. “I couldn’t move. My advisor looks at me and goes, ‘Diego, go!’ I got up on stage, and happiness swirled up inside of me.” Today, that joy is shared by Carvallo’s parents through a restored relationship with their son, who is the oldest of three children. “He’s accomplished a small part of what he will be able to in life,” Manuel says proudly. “[SkillsUSA provided] a positive source of happiness that reinforced him as a person.” Carvallo now plans to go into nuclear and radiological engineering. Out of nearly 9,000 students, he was recently one of 500 chosen as a semifinalist for the Georgia Institute of Technology’s presi-dential scholarship. The wide-open paths before him are miles away from the dead-end, barren roads he used to wander. Yet to Carvallo, the scope of his ongoing journey is best described by a folder his mother keeps. “She has a folder of all my court papers, my detention slips, my life,” he explains. “After I won national office, there was an article about me in the newspaper. She had it laminated, and I’ll never forget watching her open that folder, put in that newspaper article and close it back up. I didn’t have to sit and reflect on how far I’d come. I saw it and was like, ‘Wow!’” • Photo: Lloyd Wolf

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