La Porte High School junior Kolten Dunkerson won the state championship in auto refinishing at the Skills USA state contest in Corpus Christi March 25-27. Kolten, who also earned first place at the district competition in February, now will advance to nationals in Kansas City, Missouri, the week of June 19.
His teacher, Valentin Trevino, explained that Kolten, who is actually a first-year auto refinishing student, competed in the second-year student competition, surpassing the field by 188 points to earn first place.
Kolten said that the competition included the refinishing of a scratched auto panel, in which he had to identify the colors of paint and blend them to match the panel. In addition, he was required to restore a completely rusted panel to a factory finish.
Kolten received a trophy, medal and $10,500 scholarship to Universal Technical Institute in Houston. The son of Randy and Becky Dunkerson, he plans to open up his own auto refinishing shop after graduating from UTI and later earn a bachelor's degree in business.
"I've always been interested in cars since I was little," Kolten said, noting that he and his father are working together to build a Jeep.
"I couldn't ask for a better all-around student," Trevino said of Kolten. "He questions and listens to everything I have to say, and he is always trying to find a better way to do things. I throw an idea out to Kolten, and he throws ideas back. He keeps me on my toes!"
This is the second year that Trevino's students have entered the Skills USA contests as well as the second year that one of his students has won state. Last year, second-year student Brett Kelly won first place at the state competition.
At the district competition, Trevino's students earned several of the top awards in both the first-year and second-year auto refinishing. La Porte High School students won first, second and third place in the first-year student competition as well as first, fourth and fifth in the second-year student competition.
"The talent pool we have here is awesome," Trevino said, noting that he had to select only eight of his talented students to participate n Skills USA. "We are just really fortunate to have such a good group of students in our school district."
In fact, Trevino held his own class competition to help determine who would compete. Students completed an estimate test and Automotive Service Excellence test, as well as took part in a hands-on evaluation, prior to entering the contest.
Trevino himself is a product of La Porte ISD schools, having participated in the auto refinishing program under the direction of Noel Welch. Welch, now a teacher in Alvin ISD, and Trevino will both have students representing Texas at the national competition.
LPHS principal Joanne Kolius lauded Trevino for his hard work, noting that Kolten not only earned recognition as a state champion, but also received funds for continuing his education in the field.
"This program is impressive, not only for the prestige of earning recognition, but for the college opportunities it is providing," Kolius said.
"(Mr. Trevino) is the best teacher I could have ever asked for," Kolten said.
Kolten, who attended Jennie Reid Elementary, Baker Sixth Grade Campus, and Lomax Junior High, also participates in a number of other activities at LPHS. In addition to the Skills USA program, he is a member of the National Honor Society and Peer Assistance Leadership (PALS).