Zapata County ISD pioneers career-ready graduates with welding program

Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 6:10 PM CST
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ZAPATA, Tex. (KGNS) - While high school graduations may be months away, Zapata County Independent School District (ISD) in South Texas is taking a proactive approach to equip students not only with a diploma but also with valuable job certifications.

At Zapata High School, the welding program, a vital component of the Career Technical Education initiative, has garnered significant interest with approximately 60 enrolled students. Danny Garcia, the welding program teacher, notes that the program, now in its fifth year, begins with teaching fundamental skills, including proper personal protective equipment (PPE) use and safety measures.

Garcia emphasizes the program’s benefits, especially for students in rural areas where access to universities may be limited. “They go out to the field and start working; they don’t depend on having to drive an hour or two hours to go to college when they have already started here,” says Garcia. The program provides a direct pathway to job opportunities post-graduation, reducing the need for extensive travel.

Students in the welding class graduate with a Welding Assistant Certificate, which serves as a foundation for further education at institutions like Laredo College or through dual enrollment classes. Tyler Garza, a welding student, envisions becoming an engineer and highlights the program’s relevance to his future profession, stating, “What Garcia will teach us will help me a lot.”

The flexibility of the program is evident as students pursue various career paths. Kiana Villarreal, a welding student with aspirations to become a dental hygienist, appreciates having welding skills as a fallback option. She says, “Knowing that I can be a welder will be beneficial.”

The program’s competitive edge is further highlighted by its participation in a February competition in San Antonio. Students showcase projects created over the months, with a chance to win $10,000 for their higher education.

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