CULLMAN, Ala. (AP) — When Wallace State Community College student Maci Key graduated Hayden High School, she says she didn't even know how to believe in herself.

That's despite having thrived as a dual enrollment student at Wallace State, making the drive to Hanceville three nights a week for college courses in the Machine Tool Technology Department after her high school classes were over. She enrolled her junior year in high school after something her teacher said sparked her interest in the male-dominated career field.

"It was something along the lines of 'women are very good in this field because they pay attention to detail,'" Key said. "Since then, I've learned a lot about who I am and how I can develop, not only through my technical field, but my personal skills as well. I've continually had to step out of this box that I've put myself in."

Her persistence and dedication to personal achievement have already broken down barriers. This past year, Key became the first Wallace State Lion to earn a national officer role as the current National SkillsUSA Secretary.

She's also the first national SkillsUSA student delegate from Alabama in three years and the first since Dustin Cagle served for Northeast Alabama Community College. Prior to that, she served as a state SkillsUSA college president and delegate over the past year and was voted to represent the organization as a national delegate.

SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including health occupations. SkillsUSA serves more than 300,000 students and instructors annually. The organization has 13,000 school chapters in 54 state and territorial associations.

"I'm extremely grateful to be able to represent Wallace State Community College, the state and the SkillsUSA members across the nation as a National SkillsUSA Officer," Key said. "It meant a lot that our student delegates trusted me and my fellow National Officer Team to lead and represent them. It truly is a dream come true not only to be a National SkillsUSA Officer, but to be the first one to represent Wallace State. I hope to be able to bring all of the knowledge I gain from this adventure back to the Wallace State SkillsUSA chapter."

While in Louisville last summer, Key had to complete various tasks during her pursuit to be elected as a national officer, including speaking on items like professionalism, leadership, integrity and ethics and discussing ways she would encourage students across the nation to get involved with SkillsUSA-sponsored events.

Key was required to complete a written exam and also had to campaign for her position with items such as posters and pins. Key was voted as a national officer by her student delegate peers.

"This young lady is destined for greatness," said Jimmy Hodges, Wallace State's Dean of Applied Technologies. "Maci has chosen a career field where she is a non-traditional student and is standing tall. She is professional in her appearance and behavior and is a great speaker."

Key hopes to be an ambassador for the career paths less travel, so to speak.

"I've fallen in love with a trade that is male-dominated, and I couldn't be happier," she said. "Self-doubt is something I still struggle with every day. When I graduated high school, I didn't believe in myself enough to be a leader, but I've come a long way since then and learned so much. But most importantly, believing in yourself. That's all it takes."

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Information from: The Cullman Times, http://www.cullmantimes.com