Gender surprise: Girl wins milling competition

Published 12:30 am Sunday, May 8, 2011

Just as the other competitors did, Paige Richardson followed a blueprint and used a milling machine to size down a piece of aluminum sheet metal. Then the judges said Paige’s work was the most precise of the 11 competitors.

The rub is the Warren Central High School junion was the only girl in the statewide competition in a field dominated by males.

Her win in the annual competition hosted by SkillsUSA, an organization under the Mississippi Department of Education Office of Vocational and Technical Education, will allow her to go to the 47th annual national competition in Kansas City, Mo., next month.

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“I was really shocked when they called my name,” Paige said. “I had been practicing all year. When I heard I made it to district (competition), I practiced very hard. I’m excited to be going to nationals.”

“It’s just one of those competitions that females don’t enter,” said Barbara Varnell, SkillsUSA state director. “They enter other categories like masonry.”

Paige, the daughter of Jamie and Terri Richardson, said she knew she wanted to work with machines since she was a freshman in high school when student service coordinator Janice Kees recruited her to enroll in the school’s vocational and technical curriculum.

“When Mrs. Kees came to us in the ninth grade, it caught my eye,” she said.

The 16-year-old said she wants study machine shop or physical therapy in college and has applied for a summer internship at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center, but has not heard if she’ll get the job.

At the national competition, Paige will likely be competing with about 50 students.