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Shawsheen Tech’s Cole Kelley to compete for 2nd gold medal at SkillsUSA Nationals

BILLERICA – It’s not often a sophomore wins gold at the SkillsUSA National competition, but Cole Kelley did, and he is not your typical student.

Kelley took home the gold medal in the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVAC-R) competition last summer at the 2022 SkillsUSA National Competition; he had just finished his sophomore year of high school. Now nearing the end of his junior year, Cole is determined to defend his title after qualifying to compete, yet again, at the SkillsUSA National Competition.

Cole took his first step towards repeating his big national win, after earning a gold medal at the SkillsUSA District competition in March. He and forty classmates advanced to the state competition (anyone earning a bronze, silver, or gold medal), which was held over three-days in April. At the state competition, Cole placed first out of all his competitors, clinching his spot to represent all HVAC-R vocational students in Massachusetts, on the National stage in June.

Cole is one of eight students from Shawsheen who will be competing at Nationals.

“I’m excited to return again this year,” said Kelley. “It was an exciting experience last year, and since not many sophomores win gold at Nationals, the spotlight shined bright on me. I am also happy to be able to add this prestigious distinction to my resume.”

Kelley’s interest in HVAC-R has a unique beginning. At the age of five, he began treatments at Boston Children’s Hospital for migraines. His visits left a lasting impression, as they are catalyst for his post-secondary ambitions.

“My plan after high school is to join Pipefitters Local 537 and specialize in Pharmaceutical refrigeration,” explains Kelley, who worked this past summer for Dodge Cooling and Heating out of Chelmsford. “I have chronic migraines, so I’ve made many trips to Boston Children’s Hospital, where I witnessed many people get the help they need. I want my career to include that kind of environment. Hospitals and other medical facilities have unique refrigeration needs, many with life-or-death consequences. I think a career as a pharmaceutical refrigeration technician would merge my personal and professional passions.”

The HVAC-R program at Shawsheen was Kelley’s first choice as an 8th grader coming into Shawsheen, and the program remained his top choice after participating in the Freshman Exploratory process; it has been a tremendous fit.

“Cole is one of the most dedicated, driven, and intelligent students I have had the privilege to teach,” said Shawsheen HVAC-R instructor Jim McGreevey. “He is eager to learn, and he spends additional hours every day studying advanced concepts. Cole is a well-rounded and thoughtful person who approaches both his instructors and peers in a humble and sincere manner.”

As the schoolyear winds down for most, Kelley’s preparation for the National competition is ramping up. Cole shared, “my biggest opponent is myself,” and he is determined to succeed.

With his sight on the prize, Kelley’s ambitions are high; he hopes to bring home a gold from Nationals and be a two-time consecutive national gold medalist.

About Shawsheen Valley Regional Vocational School District

Established in 1965, Shawsheen Valley Regional Vocational Technical School District (SVRVTSD) is a student-centered public institution serving the five member towns of Billerica, Bedford, Burlington, Tewksbury, and Wilmington. Shawsheen Valley Technical High School serves more than 1,300 students in grades 9-12 and is “Dedicated to Excellence in Education”, integrating academics with more than 20-vocational-technical career pathways.

Shawsheen is located in Billerica, MA on a sprawling 100-acre campus. The school building features state-of-the-art facilities and athletic fields, twenty-four varsity sports, and dozens of extra-curricular clubs and activities. All of Shawsheen’s faculty and staff are committed to the mission “to provide a positive learning experience in a safe educational environment that encourages all students to reach their full potential, emphasizes the value of a strong work ethic, and prepares them for adult life in a competitive world.”

Shawsheen Valley Regional Vocational Technical School District also provides high-quality educational programming for youths and adults through Adult Education, Afterschool Exploratory Programs, Community Events, and Summer Camps and Enrichment Programs. Shawsheen is consistently working to increase its rich and varied programming opportunities for the community, which supports its mission that education is a lifelong, continuous process with many paths to living a successful and fulfilling life.