Corcoran Welding Students Use Skills to Benefit Community
Published on 12/14/21
District News Corcoran High School
The return to in-person learning this year hasn’t been easy for some students. After growing accustomed to learning in front of a computer screen last year, many struggled to engage with learning in person.
Corcoran welding instructor Jose Ocasio anticipated this challenge. He spent the summer re-reading the welding textbook and brainstorming hands-on lessons that students could do in the welding lab to help bring the curriculum to life.
For his juniors and seniors, he gave them free range in pitching their own community-based projects. The students picked a project, meeting certain criteria: it had to be useful; it couldn’t be for personal gain; it had to be something to benefit or include the community; and it had to use the fabrication process.
The idea for the project stemmed from Mr. Ocasio’s own experience as a high school student at Fowler.
“We had a woodworking teacher who had us make toys for victims of Hurricane Katrina,” Mr. Ocasio recalled. “We made the toys and mailed them out… it was a really good experience for me. It’s important to show the students certifications – like how to weld, how to make different kinds of joints. But to apply those skills to something in real life, that sticks with them. It makes it easier for the students to correlate what I’m teaching with why they need to learn it.”
He noted that with the projects, each day is different, making it harder for the students to lose interest. One day, they may have to visit their geometry teacher to figure out what they miscalculated to make a part too short. One day, they may write their weekly progress report highlighting where they are in their project.
“It’s a new spark to keep students engaged,” Mr. Ocasio shared. “They don’t have that vision – to take raw material and create something cool out of it. These projects give them that experience and show them the possibilities that are open to them. It helps them see they have more potential than they give themselves credit for.”
Students came up with three creative projects: the first was to benefit students at Roberts. One welding student had the idea of creating something for the K-8 school, located next door. In speaking with Roberts teachers, the students learned that the school playground was missing a bench for students to sit when they are tired. They also learned that the school had created a nearby memorial garden in remembrance of a student who had passed away several years ago. The welding students brainstormed a multipurpose idea: they would make a memorial bench to commemorate the garden, while also creating a place for students to sit while on the playground.
“It feels good knowing I can make a difference by using my welding skills,” senior Cadence Wright shared. “I know the girl’s mom will be happy about the bench – it’s something to remember her by and it will mean something to her.”
“It’s been a long road – we’ve made a lot of errors,” Kevin Matias shared of the bench’s intricate design. “But we wanted it to look right in memory of this little girl. We all worked our hearts out on it.”
They spoke with people who knew the girl’s family and learned that she liked butterflies and flowers, making those the theme of the bench. They partnered with the school’s art teacher, Ms. Capria-Lazzaro, and a couple of her art students, to have the bench painted blue, purple, and yellow – the girl’s favorite colors.
Two other projects will benefit the Corcoran athletic community. One group of students worked to create new training equipment for the school’s football team; another worked to create new custom basketball carts for the school’s girls and boys basketball teams.
The basketball carts were fabricated in house by hand, made custom with “CTF” cut out from the side and a small cougar – the school’s mascot.
“The school brought a cart to us and said they needed new ones,” junior Thomas Hennessey said. “This was my third or fourth project and it was fairly easy, but we had some challenges. We had to figure out how many basketballs they wanted to store on the carts so we could measure and create it. We also had to plan things out and work together because we all like to work in a certain way. This project helped me gain experience working with different aspects of welding and helped give me an idea of different things I’d like to try.”
Another project, making chutes, which football players use to help them learn to tackle, was also custom made, in consultation with the football coach. In speaking with the school’s Athletic Director, the students learned that for the school to buy new chutes, the cost would be several thousand dollars. The cost for them to make a custom one? Just $90!
Senior Jimmie Armstead, who hopes to join a union straight out of high school to pursue a career in welding, is a lineman on the football team and said the need for a new chute was obvious.
“The chute on our field is old and rusty and not even,” Jimmie explained. “It makes marks on our helmets! So I asked my teacher and I asked the coach, and they were both on board with it. We wanted to help the community, and it feels good to know that I’m leaving something behind for my friends to remember me by. We’ve made other things for the school in our last three years here, and we’re lucky because not every school has a shop that can do things like this. This project really opened my eyes to show me that by using our welding skills, we can really make anything we need!”
We’re so proud of these students for their dedication to the welding craft and for using their skills to benefit the greater SCSD community!