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SENCAP students in York learn new skills

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(L-R) Cara Carranza, Lauren Thomas, Rachelle Staehr
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Cara Carranza holds her welding helmet.

York Senior Lauren Thomas is taking classes through the Southeast Nebraska Career Academy Partnership that she never dreamed of. One class in particular is welding. Not only is she taking it and earning dual credit through Southeast Community College, but she really enjoys it.

“I think it’s my favorite class,” she said. “No matter who you are, I strongly suggest taking welding.”

Thomas originally took the class because it’s a requirement to become an automotive technician, which is what she’d like to do in college. However, she’s getting much more out of it than she expected.

“I enjoy the work of being able to make something,” she explained. “When I work on a weld, I zone in and focus on only the weld, even though sometimes it frustrates me. I’m an artistic person, and when I do welds, I get into a rhythm.”

Fellow classmate Cara Carranza found herself in a similar situation. She needed the class for her Auto Collision Repair program credits. She likes the hands-on part of welding. She’s also not afraid of a challenge.

“A college rep told me there needs to be more women in this field because we’re better at multitasking, so a piece of advice is to never be afraid to do things like this just because it’s male dominant,” Carranza said.

York Instructor Rachelle Staehr said it’s encouraging to see more females signing up for the class, and she enjoys watching them progress throughout the semester. She said sometimes the boys in the class will get frustrated if the girl is a better welder, but eventually there’s an earned mutual respect.

“It is a great skill to learn for anyone, and females tend to be more artistic and detail-oriented, which are two beneficial skills to have in welding,” Staehr said.

Staehr said there are a variety of career paths in welding, including metal fabrication, sheet metal work, boilermakers, automotive careers, and working in a local welding shop, among others. Many of the courses in the SENCAP program give students the skills they need for post-secondary education and a future career.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to teach students hands-on skills that might empower them to pursue a career in the trades,” Staehr said. “Even if the students don’t pursue a career in the trades, as a CTE instructor, I have the opportunity to provide students with lifelong skills.”

Meanwhile, students like Carranza and Thomas continue to inspire others by demonstrating that there are no limits to what they can do.

“I think it pushes me just that much to do the best I can since people might underestimate me, because I'm a girl,” Thomas said. “It kind of makes me want people to underestimate me, so I can show them that I actually do have talent.”

SENCAP has other female welding teachers including AnnaLisa Estrela at Ashland Greenwood High School, and Holly Podliska at Centennial Public School in Utica.

For more on the SENCAP program, click on this link: https://www.southeast.edu/sencap/

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Andrea Gallagher
Communications Specialist
402-323-3395
agallagher@southeast.edu