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Leiah Rusher, Journalist

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HOUSTON HIGH-Heart, effort, and teamwork. Everyday the welding students of Houston High arrive at the Houston Middle school to have just that. The students’ determination reflects in their projects. Mr. Parker, HHS Welding teacher for the past six years, connects the hard working students to their future careers, via skills learned in his class.  This could not be possible without cooperation between staff, students, and the community.

Parker and his classes help the school by making a myriad of items for classroom projects; they can weld  just about anything a teacher asks for. “My favorite definitely has to be Mr. Hall’s trebuchet because we incorporated mathematics and science into the students’ learning, as well as welding,” Parker said.  Mr.Hall, one of the Science teachers, continues to use the trebuchet to this day.   Every August, he teaches his science classes about measuring mass, in particular the mass of rocks, and catapults them to great distances!

The past couple of years, the welding classes have made and sold firepits to support their Skills USA Welding Team.  This year they made the most “patriotic/state-riotic” yet.  They have a couple of “USA/AK” firepits that are “sure to wow your friends and family for years to come,” Parker said of his classes’ work.  They sell for $150 each. Not only do the teachers appreciate seeing and being able to use projects students have worked so hard on, the students themselves happily devote much time to creating pieces in the class.  

The students are serious about making it to state at this year’s Skills USA competition.  Several students donated materials to make ice fishing or hunting camp ‘rim stoves,’ sold for $35-$50.  The stoves are versatile: users can burn wood in them, or put pans on top.  Senior Sterling Buntin said, “Let’s try to sell them for $50 each, to get me to state.”

Chris Miller, senior welder stated “Making damascus steel [a tough metal often used for knives or swords] was my favorite,” even though Miller also referred to it as a ‘pain’. To create these intricate projects, students must sacrifice an often chilly walk to the Middle School.  However, putting up with the stroll every first through third, and sixth through seventh periods is worth it for the students who appreciate the $200,000 lab, built eight years ago.

Theses devoted students don’t take it for granted and see the class as important either for a career, making something for the school, or just as a hobby. These skills will be important for their futures and are fun.  “I’m always looking forward to the next project, I don’t always know what we’re going to do next week, but I know it’s gonna be fun and a great learning experience” Parker said

UAA hosts a welding competition where students prove their welding skills, to not only the community, but colleges as well. Students compete in stick welding, wire feed welding, and tig welding. Participants are required to set up, clean up and follow plans by cutting or putting together materials exactly how the plans are shown.  Students are judged upon effective placement of welds, the quality of their welds, and their ability to read plans. Essentially all the skills welders need in a professional  metal welding shop.   They are carefully judged; one competition even lasted 12 hours!


Jay Todd plans on taking classes at AV Tech as recommended by Mr. Parker. “I would prefer to see them [students from Alaska] going local either to Northern Industrial training or down to Av Tech in Seward.” Mr.Parker invites trade schools to come in and speak once or twice a year, depending on interest. According to Parker, in order to become ‘job ready’ in specific welding careers, it is better to go to a trade school after high school.

Most schools help welders get hired as soon as they’re finished with the program. If students earn scholarships, they are able to apply them to AV Tech and Northern Industrial. Both places have their own benefits: Northern Industrial has a certified welding inspector on site, and Av Tech has an instructor who has held a 100% pass rate throughout his career teaching welding.Some schools like AV Tech and Northern Industrial often brag that businesses and employers beat down their doors trying to get these young people hired as soon as they have finished two to three certifications.

The welding class has been very important and much appreciated by students and staff alike since the school first started offering the class 30 years ago. “This is the best job I’ve ever had,” Parker said.


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