Funding tools of the trade

$70,000 grant supports vocational education in Hayden

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— It is not often a high school student knows exactly what they want to do when they finish school.

But Isaac Haskins, a senior at Hayden High School, has it figured out.

He wants to be a welder and plans to get an associate's degree in welding and business from Aims Community College in Greeley. He then hopes to return to Hayden to start a business.

"I figured I wanted to do something for the rest of my life that I enjoyed doing," Haskins said.

He discovered his future career by taking vocational technology classes through the high school.

Thanks to a $70,000 Carl Perkins technical preparation grant, the school plans to build a new facility and purchase equipment.

More students will be able to take the classes taught by Kevin Kleckler, who has been teaching automotive and welding classes for 13 years.

"I've been wanting to add on to this program for a long time," Kleckler said.

All of the school's freshmen -- about 40 students -- signed up to take welding or automotive classes this year. He only had enough room for six.

The auto shop is tucked into the corner of the machine shed outside the high school. Weld--ing stations take up most of the space.

Kleckler said the money would allow the school to build a structure to house the automotive shop, complete with a painting booth.

He hopes to triple the number of students who take automotive classes. Freeing up space in the existing shop also will allow him to teach more welding students.

The vocational programs serve to complement the traditional curriculum at the Hayden schools.

"They have to have something to fall back on," Kleckler said. "It's by no means an alternative type of education."

The skills taught in the classes translate into a potentially large paycheck, too.

Haskins has been taking college level welding classes, taught by Kleckler before school, for the past two years. Haskins has five welding certificates and is on track to make between $65 and $100 an hour, Kleckler said.

"We have a high rate of success with our kids when they leave here," Kleckler said. "We want to make sure they're prepared for the jobs we have here and in the Steamboat area."

Hayden Superintendent Mike Luppes said he hopes the vocational programs continue to grow.

Luppes said the amount of interest and benefits in the vocational classes reiterates the need to create a regional vocational training center.

"We see it as a need for the entire area," Luppes said.

--To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210 or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com

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