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By John Bailey Hickory Daily Record
CLAREMONT – Another door to a successful future opened up for students at Bunker Hill High on Thursday with the official grand-opening of the school’s brand new welding lab.
The program is being done in partnership between Catawba County Schools and Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC).“This is a story about partnership,” Bunker Hill High Principal Jeffrey Isenhour said during the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Bunker Hill High students who complete the program will earn credits both towards their high school diploma and a college level CVCC welding certificate with 18 college credits and at a cost of only $26.25 a semester. Their books and supplies are all provided through the program.
The school has 32 students enrolled in the inaugural semester.
“There  was a lot of discussion over the last handful of months about developing a new program at Bunker Hill and one that was going to have a high impact on the local community, and welding came to the top,” Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) Dean of Business, Industry and Technology Gary Muller said.
The program has almost doubled at the college, Muller added. CVCC President Garrett Hinshaw and Principal Isenhour, along with Catawba County Schools Career-Technical Education Director Mark Story and Muller began working out the details just a few months ago.
The goal is to give students the skills needed to stay, find work and succeed right in Catawba County after high school, Story said.
It was CVCC welding program director Mark Sigmon who oversaw the setup of the brand new space for the classes at Bunker Hill High. Lincoln Electric also donated $12,000 in welding equipment to get the program started.
“I would say the biggest thing that makes this one different is that it’s through the college,” Sigmon said. “While they’re here they earn a certificate from the college in welding. ... and then all those credits they earn here, they can actually transfer over if they want to go further and get an associate’s degree.”
The welding instructor at Bunker Hill High, Brian Morgan, is himself a product of a high school welding program as a graduate from Bandys High.
“You’re giving kids in high school the opportunity to start a career out of something, some people who just want to be hands-on,” Morgan said. “By far this is one of the best facilities. ... we just got so much room where we’re going to be able to do whatever we need to.”
He added there was no problem getting students interested in signing up for the program and expects it to reach capacity next semester
Bunker Hill junior Lathan Bell was one of those students looking to use the new program as a pathway to a career after graduation.
“This counts for college credits and this is what I want to do with my life," Bell said. "This is something I enjoy.”  So far, the highlight for him has been using the plasma cutter.
Austin Blair, a Bunker Hill senior, sees the program as a path into college as well.
“It could push you to go further than you would have thought,” Blair said.
As one of its first projects, the new class is looking forward to using its brand new equipment to fabricate a metal bear – Bunker Hill High’s mascot.


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