Hayden High School's welding technology and automotive mechanics classes are getting a $44,500 boost from a trio of grants awarded during the past couple of weeks.
The grant-funded improvements could attract more students to the already popular vocational program, which offers college credit. It is now attracting students, in high school and college, from across Colorado.
Ricky Sasak, 16 of Steamboat Springs, found out one of his friends began commuting to Hayden two years ago for the vocational class offerings. With ambitions of a career in underwater welding or diesel mechanics, Sasak also made the switch to Hayden High School.
"I'm in automotive, wood shop and welding," Sasak said. "It's fun, and I'm learning a lot. And, it's a smaller school, so I can do better."
Hayden Athletics Director Kevin Kleckler teaches one automotive mechanics class and three welding technology classes to high school students. He also teaches one welding class at the school for students of Colorado Northwestern Community College.
One of Kleckler's goals is to attract more students to the vocational program. People are coming from Steamboat and Craig, and over the years, some have moved from Denver for the classes, Kleckler said.
"I want Hayden to be a vocational hub," Kleckler said.
This can be accomplished in the welding class with great help from a $40,000 grant from the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education. Kleckler said $13,000 of that would be used to replace old welding equipment, and the rest would be used to host workshops and have guest instructors.
The automotive mechanics class received $2,000 Thursday night from the El Pomar Youth in Community Service program for a new tire-balancing machine.
"You go to Big-O, and that's what they're using," Kleckler said. "We want to keep up with the industry rather than being behind the times."
The automotive mechanics class also is receiving a $2,500 grant from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation for a four-post lift that will allow for under-vehicle repairs without the use of a creeper and allow for easier, more direct instruction.
"I can't tell you how excited I am to get this money," Kleckler said. "It's just going to make the program that much better."