Welding student Allysa Flores lets the sparks fly during class at the L.P. Card Career and Technical Center.
By JOCELYN NICHOLS
Pasadena ISD Communications
Surrounded by flying sparks, heavy machinery and power tools, Alyssa Flores couldn't imagine a more comfortable spot in which to study. Her welding torch serves as her pencil, a chunk of steel her notepad and her welding class her library.
"I just like hands-on activities," Flores says. "I like to be able to look at my work when I'm through with it."
Flores fell in love with welding last year when she started taking classes as a junior. She balances her AP classes at Pasadena High with her welding class every day from noon to 2 p.m. at the L.P. Card Career and Technical Center.
Along the way, she has welded together a few remarkable distinctions.
For one, Flores is the only female in the class this year. Not that it matters much to Zeek Garcia, the Card Center's welding instructor.
"Surprisingly, when the girls really want to," Garcia says, "they do better than the boys."
But Flores has surpassed just the boys in her class. She's one of the best student welders to be found anywhere in the area.
Recently, she placed third in the Skills USA Competition at San Jacinto College. The competition included school districts from all over the Houston area.
In addition, Flores has received a scholarship from the Construction Maintenance Education Foundation to pay for her college classes -- classes she's already taking at San Jacinto. She needs only three more courses to earn her welder's certification.
"I'm so proud of her accomplishments over the past two years," Garcia says. "She's a well-rounded student."
Although she's comfortable with welding now, Flores admits things didn't start out that way.
"I was nervous when I first came to the class," she said. "I had never done welding before. I had no experience."
During the first three weeks of class, students undergo extensive preparation that includes safety awareness, use of tools and working with compressed gases. Having mastered that, students learn how to cut steel with a torch.
"It took me a little while to learn how to get the flame just right," Flores said.
Students taking welding do more than just melt metal. Troubleshooting techniques, math solutions and public-speaking skills are also emphasized.
"It's definitely sharpened my math skills because we have to know how to measure the lengths and widths of the plates that we work with," Flores said.
Flores is considering becoming an independent contractor and starting her own company after she gets certified. For now, she's looking forward to working for a local company to gain more experience in her field.
"The purpose of the class is to get students ready for jobs in the industry right after they graduate," Garcia said. "We train them on how to weld pipes together, which is a skill used in the oil and gas fields, chemical plants and city infrastructure."
Flores became interested in welding after she heard Sarah Wrobleski, the Card Center director, speak to students about the programs offered through the Career and Technical Education program.
Through the CTE program, students can earn their certifications in nearly a dozen different fields. Certifications range from Cosmetology, Hotel Management, Automotive Technology and Pharmacy Tech.
"When students leave this program they automatically have a skill," said Laura Mann, the CTE coordinator. "Our program leads to an industry certificate, so students can receive their diploma and their certification around the same time."
"I'm definitely more confident in my skills since I've started welding," Flores said.