(BRECKENRIDGE, Texas) – Overcoming adversity is nothing new to Hunter Dickens.
The Springtown native, who is studying for a certificate of completion in Welding Technology at Texas State Technical College, was born to a single mother, was injured while playing high school football, and experienced the loss of his family’s home. He fought off those setbacks by finding his calling during high school welding classes.
“I found welding as a freshman in high school, and it was a godsend,” he said. “I realized when the (welding) hood goes down, everything was quiet. I knew then that welding is what I wanted to do with my life.”
Dickens admits that he worked blue-collar jobs beginning at age 12. While helping his stepfather on one project, he approached a welding crew that was working on a large rodeo arena in Springtown to see if they needed any help. He was asked if he had his welding tools available.
“I got my equipment and started cutting pipe right then,” he said. “Within two weeks, I was able to get a raise.”
While Dickens was in high school, he would get up at 4 a.m. to make the drive to Denton to work for a different welding company. After another personal setback, he called his former boss on the rodeo arena project to see if he could work closer to home.
“We built four houses, complete with pipe fences and a shop,” he said. “That got me through my senior year of high school.”
As a senior, Dickens won TSTC’s welding contest at the Breckenridge campus and a $1,000 scholarship. He said that was another godsend.
“I spent many months depressed, not knowing what I would do after high school,” he said. “I came to the TSTC contest and met Stephen Hope (TSTC’s Welding Technology instructor in Breckenridge). I took it as a sign I was meant to be in school here because Stephen’s last name is Hope.”
Dickens still tells people that attending TSTC is a blessing.
“TSTC has given me the opportunity that I know I will have a job when I graduate,” Dickens said. “Stephen has been more helpful to me because he understands what we are going through as students. He has helped me through some hard times since I started school.”
Hope said Dickens pays attention to detail and is determined to make a name for himself.
“He is mindful of the welding environment,” he said. “He is very motivated to get into the industry and see what he can do.”
According to onetonline.org, welders earn a yearly median salary of more than $48,000 in Texas. Welding jobs were expected to increase 23% between 2020 and 2030 in the state, according to the website.
Welding Technology is one of nine programs at TSTC that have money-back guarantees. The college’s commitment to participating students is simple: If they do not have a job in their field within the six months following graduation, then they will receive a full refund of their tuition. For more information, visit tstc.edu/mbg.
For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.