For College of Western Idaho (CWI) alum Steve Silva, a chance encounter turned into a golden opportunity when he decided to get involved with SkillsUSA. The Diesel Technology program graduate just finished competing in the National Skills and Leadership Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. He walked away from the competition with the gold medal in the Prepared Speech category after placing first in the nation.
“To me, winning the gold at the national level means you can do it,” he said. “Impossible lives in the mind.”
Steve’s life has changed considerably since the end of last year when he saw a sign in the hallway at CWI's Nampa Campus Micron Center for Professional Technical Education. The sign announced an upcoming SkillsUSA meeting. He dropped in to check it out.
“I knew I wanted to surround myself with good people during my time at CWI,” he said. “I definitely found that in SkillsUSA.”
Shortly before becoming involved with the group, he was encouraged to participate in a rookie speech tournament hosted by CWI. His Comm 101 teacher Johnny Rowing was the one who inspired him to do it. He took first place in that tournament, and later went on to represent CWI at the state’s SkillsUSA competition in the Prepared Speech category. A gold medal followed in that event as well; earning him a spot in the national competition as an automatic qualifier.
“For as long as I live, I will hold CWI in a special place in my heart,” he said. “I was a guy who was coming off a cattle ranch before I started school. I was a lousy student when I was younger. I’m definitely not the same person I was before starting at CWI.”
Steve’s journey is somewhat unique. The youngest of six children, he grew up on a ranch in Canyon County. He graduated from Nampa Christian High School in 1999. A few years later he joined the military and worked as a munitions specialist for the next six years. After some personal and real-world exploration, he moved back home and went to work again on the family ranch. After deciding he wanted something to call his own, he chose to go to college.
“My mom always encouraged me to live, pursue my passion, and not be afraid to fail,” he said. “So I guess you can say I went to school because of her. I chose CWI because it was affordable, conveniently located, and offered a Diesel Technology program.”
Steve excelled as a student during his time at CWI. Along with earning accolades as a public speaker, he also earned two scholarships through the CWI Foundation. He graduated from the Heavy-Equipment Technician program in May and immediately enrolled in summer courses at Boise State University. His ultimate goal is to earn an MBA, work for a great company in the Treasure Valley, and, in his words, contribute to the greater society.