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“Best experience ever!” Southern’s Melissa Wilhite wins gold at SkillsUSA Nationals

Mount Gay, W.Va. – Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College has been competing in the SkillsUSA competitions for only four years, and can now boast a national gold medal winner! Melissa Wilhite, a second-year Medical Assisting student at Southern, brought home a gold medal during the National SkillsUSA Competition, held in Louisville in June.

“This was just the best experience ever!” Wilhite said. “I was competing against LPNs, and other MA students from around the country. I honestly didn’t think I’d place.”

Wilhite, who lives at Johns Creek, Kentucky, competed during the SkillsUSA state competition in Fairmont in March. She brought home the gold during that competition, as well.

There were various stations of competition for the Medical Assisting portion, including conversions of medications, urinalyses, coding, and preparing a sterile site. But, Wilhite faced personal challenges, as well. The day she left to compete at the state level coincided with her son’s 18th birthday, and her mother-in-law died while Wilhite was away for the state competition.

However, through it all, Wilhite credits her bond with Southern’s Medical Assisting Instructor Ashely Starkey as a major contributor to her success.

“Mrs. Starkey is the most amazing instructor,” Wilhite said. “She was always there to give me support when I didn’t believe in myself. She was beside me, encouraging me, pushing me. She was always there to help.”

“Melissa’s drive, determination, intelligence, and compassion are truly remarkable,” Starkey said. “The medical field is lucky to have her, and she has proven time and time again that nothing will stand in the way of he dreams.”

Wilhite is a “non-traditional” student at Southern. Out of school for 25 years, Wilhite decided it was time to pursue higher education, and she came to Southern.

“Right away, it felt like home,” Wilhite said. “People really wanted to help and get to know you. You’re not just a number at Southern. It really feels like a family.”

From the start, Wilhite knew she wanted a career in the medical field, and she had a good reason to do so: her son suffered from juvenile diabetes, and in caring for him, she had a good grasp on medical terminology and procedures. Once at Southern, she found the Medical Assisting program, and it “clicked.”

SkillsUSA Gold Winner Melissa Wilhite

“The MA program is the perfect in-between for someone, because it stands on its own, and it gives you the skills to go on to other careers, like nursing. You can earn certifications in EKG, phlebotomy, Pharmacy Tech, and billing and coding, so you have a lot of options.”

As Wilhite prepares for her final classes before graduating, she is looking ahead to what her future will be.

“I’m a people person,” Wilhite said. “I knew this program would be a good fit, and it gives me the chance to help people.”

For more information, please contact Mandy Lester at 304-896-7429, or