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Hot start – Kennedy welding room proving huge success

By James Day

Six months since its opening on the Kennedy High School campus the new welding room already is producing dividends.

Fundraising for the facility, which opened at the beginning of the school year, has reached $145,000, said John Gooley, the Mt. Angel Community Foundation vice-president and Withers Lumber executive who led the campaign.

The additional funds (the facility opened after raising $90,000) have allowed the shop to purchase a portable storage shed, and the program’s continuing relationship with Chemeketa Community College reeled in a vintage Piranha cutter, which looks like a giant stapler.

The welding program students also sold arts and crafts and plants at the FFA booth at Volksfest in February. The booth collected $2,500 during the three-day run of the event, with the welding program items selling out at the end of day two.

Items produced by the welding students for Volksfest included boot racks, coat racks, metal wall art, bottle openers, valentine candy bouquets, wooden laser heart and square jewelry boxes, wine racks and wine carriers.

The welding students are planning to ramp up production of craft items this spring to be sold at Oktoberfest in September.

The program also has produced its first award-winner. Kennedy sent eight students to an agricultural expo hosted by Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, with junior Cody Pistulka taking home first place in metal inert gas welding. Also participating in the competition were Brody Kleinschmit (eighth in gas metal arc welding), Elsie Jonas (sixth in shield metal arc welding), Brody Morgan (fourth in combo, tungsten inert gas and gas metal arc), Evan Wyatt (shield metal arc), Dreyson Crum (shield metal arc) and Briar Morgan (gas metal arc).

In addition to the success in competition, Kennedy welding students also have entered the job market. Pistulka is working part-time for Wurdinger Recycling, where he has advanced to working in the firm’s computer program, learning critical thinking and writing skills.

“He just kept moving up,” teacher Korrie Shull said. “He’s a great kid. He’s going to go far.”

Also, Kennedy senior Oscar Gonzalez has been hired part-time by GEM Equipment of Mount Angel, a key sponsor of the project whose support resulted in the room being named for the firm.

The room was bustling with activity the day Our Town visited. There are two sections of the classes, taught by Shull and Kennedy alum Alex Snegirev, which serve more than 20 students.

Jessica Brenden, the Kennedy principal, and district superintendent Rachel Stucky joined the tour, with Brenden noting that the school might look to expand the program if budget and other details can be worked out.

“These students are qualified to move into jobs right now,” Stucky said. “I love it.”

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