Two DANB certificants placed as dental assisting medalists this past summer during the 2017 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, held June 19-23 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Tara Rex, CDA, of Hurlburt Field, Florida, earned a gold dental assisting medal in the college division; and Carey Contini, CDA, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, won a bronze dental assisting medal in the college division.

The SkillsUSA Championships are competitive events showcasing the best career and technical education students in the nation, with more than 6,000 contestants in 100 separate events and nearly 1,500 judges and contest organizers in 2015. Contests begin locally and continue through the state and national levels. Read on to learn more about Tara and Carey.

Tara Rex, CDA

Tara (pictured above at center) competed at the regional and state levels before moving on to the national conference. At the national level, the competition included both a written test and hands-on portion.

“SkillsUSA is a great organization, and the National Leadership and Skills Conference was an amazing experience,” says Tara, an August 2017 graduate of Northwest Florida State College’s dental assisting program. “Seeing the talent and skills in all of the divisions was impressive. I was honored to represent my school, my classmates and my teachers. We have a great program, and I was very proud to be able to bring home the first gold medal in my division for my school.”

Following graduation and the SkillsUSA conference, Tara now intends to relocate to Austin, Texas, to begin her dental assisting career.

“I look forward to joining a team where I will be able to put my skills to use, as well as expand upon them while providing the best patient care possible,” Tara says. “Being able to represent my school and profession in SkillsUSA instilled a deeper level of pride and confidence in my skills and abilities. I know that I will be able to meet the expectations of my future employer.”

Carey Contini, CDA

Having earned gold medals at the SkillsUSA district and state competitions, Carey was excited to compete at the national level. “I felt I had done well, and I was happy to have placed in the top three,” she says. “The SkillsUSA competition helped me open up to new experiences and feel confident in my clinical skills.”

Carey graduated in June 2017 from McCann Technical School. She is working at Berkshire Orthodontics in Pittsfield and is taking online classes and hopes to earn additional credentials in the future. Carey has her sights set on someday working as an orthodontic dental assistant.

“Working in general dentistry for 17 years, I knew that I wanted to specialize in one area of dentistry,” she says. “As soon as I started a rotation in orthodontics, I knew it was exactly what I wanted. I am looking forward to helping people achieve the smile they want. I love seeing the progress from the beginning to the end of our patients’ treatment.”

Additional Winners

Also in the college division, Taryn Sunderland won a silver dental assisting medal. High school division winners were Kristyn Gordon, gold; Megan Robert, silver; and Shelby Smith, bronze. For more information about SkillsUSA, visit