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Douglas County school program inspiring students to pursue new career path | #schoolsaftey

In the metal shop at ThunderRidge High School, precision and patience have a whole new meaning, as students measure, cut and weld for projects every single day.

“I find it a lot more fun than everything else,” said graduating senior Josie Byrne.

Byrne, who plans to study mining engineering in college, never planned to take this class or develop these kinds of skills. Now, fifth period might be her favorite of the day.

“I wouldn’t have started welding if this class hadn’t been here, but now that there’s the option for people, I think people more people are going to decide to take it,” Byrne said.

Byrne is one of nearly 120 students in ThunderRidge’s new welding program, which covers things such as safety, terminology and basic skills.

It’s all part of the Douglas County School District’s emphasis on Career and Technical Education, allowing kids a chance at success outside of the typical college path.

Ponderosa was the first school in the district to offer welding. ThunderRidge started its program this school year with funding from a recent voter-approved bond measure.

“Some of these kids that I’ve had this first semester and this first year, they didn’t even know stuff like this was an option,” said Oscar Chaparro, the program’s instructor. “It’s just increasing that knowledge and expanding their boundaries.”

Chaparro sees the program as a way for many students to apply the formulas and concepts they’ve learned in other classes in a hands-on way. But, for a select few, it could spark a new passion leading to a career.

“It’s really important for them to find out that there’s these other industries out there in the world that they can go out into and get a really well-paying job,” Chaparro said.

As the program grows it could move past simply teaching these skills. The goal is to offer certification as well.

“Whether they’re going into pipefitting, sheet metal workers, structural steel and iron, we’re trying to cover as much broad bases like that so once they get to that industry, they have the necessary skill to develop,” he said.

Until then, students will still leave class with a leg up, and in Trent Edwards’ case, a new passion.

“During the weekend I sit there thinking about the next class and the next project I get to work on,” Edwards said.

A graduating senior, Edwards will now skip trade school altogether, and pursue his newfound career.

“All the parents push college and that’s the only option. There are so many other options out there,” he said. “With the skilled that I learned in here, it’s enough to go into a job and say I can weld, and then they kind of teach you the things they want you to know.” 

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