BY RACHAEL GRAY
Jordan Marez wanted to be an engineer, until she discovered welding.
The 18-year-old high school senior is in her second year in the welding program at Garden City High School.
After she finishes high school, she hopes to get into a welding school and then become a pipeline and oil rig welder.
Marez likes welding for the creativity it allows.
"You just look at something, and it's your own creation to put together," she said.
Wednesday in Don Murrell's advanced metals class, Marez worked on a Skills USA grill.
"It's a grill that a couple of other people and me completely tore down, and it's just me putting it back together. It goes on an axle, but we don't have that yet," she said.
Marez said it was the GCHS program that helped get her interested in welding. She encourages other girls to get involved, too.
"Just go for it," she said.
According to Murrell, the high schoolers are getting used to the new facility, which has allowed GCHS to grow its program.
"It's actually the same square footage, but the shops at the (old) high school were actually about 120 feet apart. We spent all day walking back and forth. When we laid out the blueprint for this one, we put the two shops side by side. It's much more efficient and makes the supervision of kids a lot better," he said.
Murrell said the program at the high school gives students a lot of opportunities, some of which are possible because of a partnership between Garden City Community College and the state department of education.
"If students go through our program, they can start at GCCC at a higher level than just entry-level," he said.
The school's program, which is the largest welding program in Kansas with fall enrollment at 138 and spring enrollment at 102, also offers the chance to complete a number of certificates.
The program is a nationally certified American Welding Society SENSE program, and students can get their entry level welder certifications. Students in Welding 3 or Advanced Metals can complete the OSHA 10 certification, which is OSHA safety for 10 hours.
Murrell said the students' futures after GCHS can be diverse.
Kolt Mong, 18, a senior in Advanced Metals, wants to go into underwater welding. He's been interested in the skill since he was 6 years old.
"When I was 6 years old, my dad built a corral out of oil rig piping. I just thought it was neat," he said.
Mong likes the art of welding.
"You're taking something hard, making into a liquid and turning it back into a hard," he said.
He said he's enjoying the new shop at GCHS.
"Both have pros and cons. One pro is that we have more booths inside the shop area. The con is that there's less open space," he said.
Mong plans to go to the Diver's Institute of Technology in Seattle.
"You're working with oil, boats, gas lines, anything underwater," he said.
He encourages those in welding to stick with it and perfect their skills.
"Practice makes perfect. That's pretty much all it is. Practice your technique and amperages, and just play," he said.
Murrell is a certified welding inspector, and instructor Pat VenJohn is a certified welding educator at the high school.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers is expected to grow 15 percent from 2010 to 2020.
The median annual wage of welders, cutters, solderers and brazers was $35,450 in May 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,940, and the highest top 10 percent earned more than $53,690, according to the U.S. BLS.