Things did not go as planned. By the end of my junior year, Mr. Woodburn had made draftsmen out of my classmates and me. Senior year arrived and all was well until the news came that Mr. Woodburn was diagnosed with cancer. Everything changed from that moment on. A sort of panic came upon all us when he no longer attended class. What happened next was our worst nightmare.
His illness had him bedridden for months, and his class was taught by several substitutes. By early February he had lost his battle against cancer, but I knew that a great man had taught me more than how to draw.
The things that he taught me will never be forgotten. He emphasized being professional even in the classroom, to always do your best even if you're not sure how to do things. Above all, he taught me that with hard work anything is possible. I strived to be the best I could. My chance to do so would come weeks after his passing.
Ryan Rutland, Robert Downs and I were to compete in the SkillsUSA state competition. Before we left for the contest we stopped at Mr. Woodburn's grave and reflected on the things he had taught us. From that moment on, the three of us went with all hopes of overcoming the odds and making Mr. Woodburn's legacy known throughout the state.
At the contest site, we all prayed once again and implemented one of "Woody's" teachings - always be professional. We dressed in long-sleeve white shirts and put on our ties. We truly believed that this small act would make us feel like champions before we even competed.
Ryan placed second in the state in mechanical drafting, and I placed first in architectural drafting. After a bit of celebration, it hit me that I was moving on to the SkillsUSA National Conference. I was not afraid to compete. I was afraid of letting Mr. Woodburn and everyone else who supported me down. I was now going to realize my dream and show everyone what I was capable of doing.
I quit my job to start studying. For two weeks, I studied and learned something new daily. I truly wanted to do the best I could, and, luckily for me, Bob Molkenthin (the new CAD teacher) was willing to help me.
The day finally came. We joined more than 5,000 students, teachers and professionals at the national conference in Kansas City, Mo. I was to compete against students from all 50 states and four other countries. Many contestants went to the cookouts and exhibitions, but I continued to study. I would not forget why I was there.
On the final night, the top three places in each category were to be announced. All of Mr. Woodburn's lectures came rushing into my head. I thought about the many times he had to correct my mistakes. Those thoughts overwhelmed me as the placements were being called.
The top three places in architecture were called, and my name was not among them. Very disappointed, I got onto the bus back to a restaurant where all of the South Carolina students were to meet and find out their placements. The state director told me I finished 16th.
At that moment I knew there was someone up above looking down at me and feeling so proud that I could be successful under the circumstances.
Matt Jimenez is a freshman at Aiken Technical College.