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SkillsUSA painter wants to take passion to the world stage, hopes for industry support & $14K to make it

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The coming weeks are the last push to meet the fundraising goal for a SkillsUSA automotive refinishing student who will represent the U.S. team in car painting at this year’s WorldSkills Competition.

Lily Williams, of Arkansas, won gold in the automotive refinishing category during the 2023 national career contest, which brings together the most highly skilled career and technical education students in high school and college from across the U.S. The WorldSkills Competition will be held in France in September.

Williams has put off going to college to focus on the competition.

The deadline to donate is Feb. 29. If the funds aren’t raised, Williams won’t be able to compete, according to SkillsUSA Automotive Refinishing Technology Technical Committee Co-Chair Jessica Neri.

No competitor in SkillsUSA Automotive Refinishing has ever placed in the WorldSkills Competition so if Williams does, she’ll make history on the world stage.

“We’re very proud of what we do,” Neri said the industry. “This gives us an opportunity as proud Americans to rally around young students who are obviously killer at this profession.”

Neri said nearly $1,675 has been raised in a GoFundMe account set up for Williams. In a World SkillsUSA account for Williams, there is $3,550. That leaves $14,000 left to raise, Neri said.

Ways to donate:

    1. GoFundMe fundraiser:;
    2. Directly via SkillsUSA:, and write “car painting” in the gift preference box;
    3. Request that SkillsUSA send a direct invoice for a donation.

In a video, Williams shared why her passion is car painting. “My favorite part of this trade is probably getting to make things look new again,” she said. “It’s the satisfaction I get from my completed work and seeing people excited for their cars to look new again.”

Williams initially planned to become a veterinarian until she fell in love with car painting while taking an auto collision class during her junior year in high school.

“I am so excited for this opportunity to compete at this level and from this experience, I hope to learn skills that will help me become a faster and better technician.”

As a former SkillsUSA competitor, Neri said she knows how life-changing participation can be. Had she not competed, she said she believes she wouldn’t be where she is in her career today.

“It has skyrocketed my opportunities in this industry to make a very comfortable living for myself,” Neri said. “Automotive Refinish USA has never medaled at the world level. We’ve never gotten gold, silver, or bronze at the world level… there are countries where they are prepping their competitors for World[Skills] when they’re in grade school.”

Williams helped make SkillsUSA history as one of three high school winners in Automotive Refinishing Technology — all female for the first time — along with Aleah Sauder, of Illinois who brought home silver, and Madysen Smith, of Pennsylvania who earned bronze.


Featured image: Lily Williams paints a vehicle. (Provided by Jessica Neri)

Video courtesy of WorldSkills

QR code flyer courtesy of Jessica Neri

(From left) Jessica Neri, Lily Williams, Aleah Sauder, and Madysen Smith. (Provided by Jessica Neri)

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