Photo courtesy Socorro ISD

Despite challenging school year, Americas High welding students keep goals, earn certifications

Ten Americas High School students did not let remote learning and the adjustments necessary due to the pandemic deter them from the arduous task of earning a welding certification this school year.

With help from their teacher, who went above and beyond to guide them every step of the way, the students earned the qualifications that certify them for the workforce via the school’s Career and Technical Education and STEM programs.

Americas High School welding instructor Veronica Garcia took safety precautions and used her own vehicle to transport equipment to the students’ homes so that they could practice for their certification examinations.

Garcia loaded machinery, tools, pieces of metal, and protective equipment, such as gloves and safety glasses, to deliver to the students to make sure nothing got in the way of her dedicated students’ learning.

“They are all just amazing kids and really have that drive,” Garcia said. “I can tell right away that I have very special kids. I don’t know if that’s just because they’re mine, but I have the mentality that I have the best kids here at Americas.”

Many of the students were motivated to join the welding program because they have family who work in welding or they are interested in having their own business one day, Garcia said. An example is Diego Hernandez, a freshman at Americas High School.

Hernandez said he was an eighth-grade student at John Drugan School when he first heard about the welding program at Americas. He thought it was interesting, so he signed up and practiced over the summer with his grandfather who works in construction.

“I know welders get paid very well and I’d also like to have my own company, maybe in welding. That is mainly why I think it will benefit me,” he said.

The students practiced and conducted the work necessary to earn their certifications throughout the pandemic, working from home and finding alternative ways to adapt to the circumstances.

They practiced with unconventional items and everyday materials, such as bread, crackers, and cardboard, and took pictures of their work so they could share with Garcia to make sure they were on the right track.

The students were able to successfully complete the assessments, at least one in six different certifications available, to be officially certified. The American Welding Society D1:1 certification give the students the skills and knowledge to be hired in the workforce now or immediately after high school. They earned the certifications in one or more various welding positions, labeled as 1G, 2G, 3G, 1F or 2F.

SISD Career and Technical Education facilitator Amanda Acosta recognized Garcia for her unwavering commitment to help her students succeed.

“The best part about this is she took time out of her already busy teaching, cheer coaching and mom duties to certify these students at their homes,” Acosta said. “Talk about a no excuses, all about what’s best for the students’ attitude from the instructor and her students for doing whatever it takes to be ready for their future!”

Garcia said the certification is an amazing opportunity for students to start earning a paycheck right away and is also a good skill to fall back on if necessary, such as during the pandemic when so many lost their jobs. She said there is always a demand for welders.

Her former students have come back to tell her their success stories, including those who turned their skill of welding into professions.

One student opened their own business in garden art and home decor, another worked at welding planes while enlisted in the Air Force, and another who is an ironworker currently helping to build the new Amazon facility in East El Paso.

“The sky’s the limit for these kids,” Garcia said. “It just depends on what direction they want to go.”

The welding program at Americas High School is one of endless opportunities in Team SISD’s CTE program, free college courses and advanced academic academies that prepare students for a lucrative future in college and careers.

“I think it’s very important that we have all these different programs here,” Hernandez said. “It’s cool because you can choose whatever interests you and you have very good teachers and professors who teach you how it can benefit you in the future and in life.”

To learn more about the SISD CTE program, free college courses and advanced academic academies, click here.