Class of 2017: Greely grad takes tech skills to national level

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Between graduating from Greely High School and traveling to Kentucky for a national technical skills competition, Mark Baston is sure to have a busy – and monumental – June.

Baston in March won the SkillsUSA Maine diesel equipment technology competition, where he faced a gauntlet of work stations. Each tested his abilities in a variety of ways, such as fixing a burned-out light on a dump truck, or an issue with a wiring harness on another truck.

Baston, who in January took first place alongside fellow Portland Arts and Technology High School student Isaac Bennett in the New England-based Universal Technical Institute Top Tech Challenge, also had to demonstrate his skills on an excavator, a Pepsi delivery truck, a tractor-trailer truck, a hydraulic cylinder, and a variety of safety equipment.

“They’re trying to know how much you know” in a variety of categories, Baston said in an interview May 12. “It’s basically how accurate you were, and how knowledgeable you were.”

The victory earned him a $10,000 scholarship to the University of Northwestern Ohio. Given that tuition to the Ohio school for the two-year program is about $26,000, the scholarship goes a long way toward paying the bills.

Should Baston win next month’s national SkillsUSA competition, the school will fund his entire tuition, he said.

He spent the beginning of the school day at PATHS and the rest of the day back at Greely. Having accumulated the credits he needed at Greely in January, Baston now focuses his time at PATHS, and will march with his fellow Greely seniors at graduation – to be held in the Greely gym at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, June 4.

“I still have to go to marching practice and all that good stuff,” he said with a smile.

He’s gotten a lot out of PATHS by being able to get out of the classroom and focus on hands-on activities. “They teach you the right way to do stuff, and they prepare you to go into the workforce and go to college for that skill,” Baston explained.

Thinking to life after college, he said, “Ideally, I’d like to come back and immediately start working for myself, but I know that’s not going to happen. So I’ll probably go work in a shop for a while.”

Once he’s more established, he’d like to run a service truck operation – sort of an AAA for heavy equipment and diesel trucks, repairing them on-site.

Asked what advice he might offer a student about to start high school, Baston said, “Be smart about how you manage your time. Because I remember being really awful with (it). I still am, but I’m just better than I was.”

“Don’t wait until the last minute to do stuff; be proactive,” he added.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Mark Baston, of North Yarmouth, who will soon graduate from Greely High School in Cumberland and also attends Portland Arts and Technology High School, will compete in a national competition in Tennessee next month.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.