Eight seniors are walking away from Hayden High School with welding certifications required to enter the work force. Pictured are, from left, Tyler Brazelton, Kyle Barrett, Garet Mixon, Dylan Sather, Tucker Vestal, Brett Gabel, Chris Miner and Oscar Rodriguez.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Eight seniors are walking away from Hayden High School with welding certifications required to enter the work force. Pictured are, from left, Tyler Brazelton, Kyle Barrett, Garet Mixon, Dylan Sather, Tucker Vestal, Brett Gabel, Chris Miner and Oscar Rodriguez.

Hayden welding program gives students options

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Hayden High School senior Garet Mixon welds on the last day of class Wednesday. He said he plans to work at Twentymile Coal Co.

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Welding instructor Kevin Kleckler examines Kyle Barrett's work Wednesday in the Babson-Carpenter Career and Technical Education Center.

If you go

What: Hayden High School graduation

When: 2 p.m. today

Where: Hayden High School gym

— Hayden High School senior Kyle Barrett said a scheduling error his sophomore year was the best thing that could have happened to him.

Barrett had signed up to take auto mechanics, but instead, he found himself in Kevin Kleckler’s welding class. Barrett recalled Wednesday that Kleckler told him to just give it a try. Without that nudge, Barrett said he doesn’t know where he’d be.

“I ended up finding what I love and want to do in life,” he said.

Barrett is one of eight students — just less than one-fifth of the Class of 2010 — who will graduate with welding certifications required to enter the work force. He plans to use what he’s learned to pursue a mining job with Twentymile Coal Co.

Barrett, his welding peers and the rest of their classmates that make up the 42-student 2010 senior class are set to graduate at 2 p.m. today in the high school gym.

Nicole Dolence, the high school’s counselor, said 30 of the graduates will attend college or trade schools next year. She said one student is joining the U.S. Army, another three plan to work for a year before heading to college and the rest will go directly to work.

Kleckler, director of the district’s Babson-Carpenter Career and Technical Edu­cation Center, said many of his graduating welding students have been taking his classes for four years, some since they were in eighth grade.

They’ve taken classes that instruct them in the basics to college-level courses, and then they earn certifications. Kleckler said some of the seniors have as many as seven welding certifications.

Kleckler said his welding students worked tirelessly, getting to Babson-Carpenter at 7 a.m. to weld before their school days started. He said that dedication and commitment would serve them well.

“This trade that they’ve learned to do will feed their families for the rest of their lives, no matter what they decide to do,” he said.

Kleckler said a number of his welding students aren’t interested in continuing their education and want to work, but some will go to college.

Senior Dylan Sather plans to attend the North Dakota State College of Science to study recreation engine technology. Sather, who started taking welding classes three years ago, said he thinks he’ll have a head start on his classmates who will have to take welding classes and get certifications in college.

Dolence said the welding program is an asset for students who want to go straight to work from high school.

“This is what they’re passionate about,” she said. “This is what they enjoy. This helps them go directly into the workplace.”

Senior Garet Mixon wants to go to work and also is pursuing a job at Twentymile. Mixon said he grew up around equipment and would rather work than sit in a classroom for two or three more years to earn a degree.

Mixon said the greatest advantage of taking welding classes and getting certified while still in high school was the amount of money he and the others saved. Many of the welding classes they take and certifications they earn would have cost the students thousands of dollars, he said. Because they were in school, the cost was far less.

“You can’t beat it if you’re in high school,” Mixon said. “It’s just the perfect opportunity for kids like us, growing up in this town.”

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