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Memorial High welding students use skills to help community

The Memorial High School Career and Technical Education program offers hands-on career practice in many programs, including welding.

Welding students at CATE, also known as Stilwell, complete a certain amount of high school credits from 10th grade to 12th grade before attending Lamar State College Port Arthur for one year to gain their certificates.

Head instructor Vandy Smith said students start the program in 10th grade learning the principles of welding before moving up to work with hands-on equipment and projects.

“As sophomores, they do a lot more core and bookwork,” he said. “It’s only 45 minutes at the school in the middle of the day. Then, I get my juniors for an hour and a half first thing in the morning and then my seniors for three hours at the end. My seniors get a lot of time to work on their skills and practice.”

Smith said the juniors and seniors do a lot of projects out in the community of Port Arthur throughout the year.

“Right now, we are trying to do a Skills USA project building go-karts,” he said. “They’ve been working on that for the last two weeks. That’s a senior project. Other than that we do stuff all the time for people. We’ve done barbecue pit repairs, hog trap cages and even build goat milk stands.”

The student’s first project of the 2019-20 included repairing a damaged basketball goal Thursday at the YMCA in Port Arthur. Sports development director Glenda Trainer phoned the program for help after noticing the basket was not moving up and down accordingly.

Students in the welding program at Memorial High School practice hands on training by fixing a broken basketball goal at the YMCA in Port Arthur. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

“It’s a community service project for the kids to get out into the community and show what they learn,” Smith said. “They reach out to me, I reach out to my director Mr. Tremont and we bring the students over.”

CATE director Timothy Tremont said allowing the students to go into the community teaches them to value their work.

“I took swimming lessons down at the YMCA before I even started school,” he said. “We played flag football down there. Being able to come here is actually allowing our students to participate in a part of something that serves our community. With them being able to repair something for our community, they might be able to come down one day with their kids and say, ‘I fixed that.’ It’s a little pride that goes on here.”

The equipment used from Thursday’s repairs is property of Vandy Smith, who is a retired welder from the U.S. Navy. Tremont said PAISD-owned equipment is unmovable from the campus.

“It just goes to show that PAISD teaches more than just skill at Stilwell — we teach values,” Tremont said. “The value that these kids are learning from their teachers is that community is important.”

To learn more about the programs at CATE, visit https://cate.paisd.org/.