The student competitors were scored on a pass/fail system, and those who passed received an American Welding Society certification.
Ninety-nine high school students from across Texas participated in one of four competition levels. Those competing in the fourth level had the chance to qualify for the state competition to be held at TSTC’s Waco campus in May 2024. A total of seven students qualified.
TXHSWS regional/state event coordinator Jim Baxter, who ran the competition, has worked with TXHSWS since 2020. The competition at the Marshall campus was his fourth time to team up with TSTC.
“(TXHSWS) is a great way for students to get industry exposure and certifications to help them go to work upon graduation,” Baxter said.
TSTC’s lead Welding Technology instructor at the Marshall campus, Russell Hutcherson, attended a small high school as a teenager, with no opportunities to participate in competitions such as the one held Friday. He jumped at the chance to host the competition in order to help high schoolers discover the world of welding.
“(The competition) teaches them some real-life lessons,” Hutcherson said. “Defeat is a terrible thing, but it’s not the end of the road; you can always work and get better. If you win, it’s a good feeling, but you’ve got to keep working at it.”
Carthage High School’s Ag Mechanics and Welding teacher Jolene Davis has been a welder herself for 45 years and a teacher for 20. She has frequently brought her students to welding competitions for the past 16-17 years, and they are always eager to sign up.
“I have 130 kids in my welding program, and they all want to compete, but I brought 15 of them today,” Davis said. “Every time (TSTC) invites me (to compete), I come.”
Kilgore High School student Osbaldo Castillo came to the competition with hopes of making it to state. He was proud to take first place in the competition’s highest level.
“I practiced a lot, and I accomplished what I came here to do,” Castillo said.
Spring Hill High School student Caitlin Mitchell has been welding alongside her stepdad for two years. She chose to take on the competition to honor her late father, who was an avid welder.
“I just know he’s watching over me today,” Mitchell said with a smile.
Registration for TSTC’s spring semester is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.