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(ABILENE, Texas) – Abilene High School senior Drake Fewell knows exactly what path he wants to take in his life.

“I want to buy my own ranch,” he said.

To help him achieve that dream, Fewell started welding in the Abilene Independent School District’s welding program and recently completed his dual credit courses in Welding Technology at Texas State Technical College.

“A friend of mine went to the Welding I class (in high school), and I thought it was pretty cool what he was doing,” he said. “I learned that you could make a lot of money welding and decided to take the classes.”

In addition to learning how to weld, Fewell became a certified electrician at the age of 15. He worked at several construction sites in his spare time.

“I did not learn everything I wanted to, but I plan to bring in different people to teach me when I do have my ranch,” he said.

One aspect of ranching is making sure that fences are sturdy, which is a reason why welding is important, Fewell said. Abilene ISD’s welding program begins with one year at the Cooper High School shop, followed by a year at the LIFT (Leadership and Innovation in Future Technologies) Center. The final year is spent studying at TSTC.

“I liked coming to TSTC because it is a mature environment,” Fewell said.

He credits that to the instructors.

“They are great just to talk to and learn from,” Fewell said. “It is a different type of learning experience when you walk into the welding lab at TSTC.”

Taylor Elston, a Welding Technology instructor, noticed the ability of Fewell and his classmates.

“This group always stays busy because they are interested in learning the welding trade,” he said. “Drake has improved since he started because he has a good handle on what he wants to do.”

Fewell said more students need to be involved in the welding industry.

“I want to see more students get involved in the trades as a whole,” he said. “It teaches you responsibility, which is important in life.”

Welding has also given Fewell an additional trait.

“It has made me relaxed and calm,” he said. “I have remained calm because there is a special art to welding.”

According to, welders can 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

Registration for TSTC’s fall semester is underway. Learn more at

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TSTC dual credit student Drake Fewell (left) and Taylor Elston, a Welding Technology instructor, review one of Fewell’s welding assignments during a lab session.
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