American Welding Foundation awards grant to support underrepresented youth

American Welding Foundation, AWS, awarded Justin Pickard and Paso Robles High School a $25,000 grant to expand outreach to underrepresented youth in our community.  The AWS Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. It supports programs to ensure the growth and development of the welding industry through research and educational opportunities. The welding industry depends upon education that prepares the next generation to meet the challenges ahead.

This grant will allow Paso Robles High School to help make information and skills accessible to younger students of our community that might otherwise not have the same opportunity to develop those skills in safety and welding.  Most importantly we are targeting areas of the Paso Robles to serve our minority or under-represented populations; mainly Hispanic and female students. These populations of students tend to be under-represented by the time they enroll in high school welding courses. PRHS has 49.6% female and 51.66% Hispanic populations; whereas the welding program only has 10.37% female and 45.18% Hispanic populations.  In contrast, Oak Park is made up of 50% female and over 80% Hispanic student populations.  Justin Pickard, welding teacher and current PRJUSD teacher of the year states, “We are seeking to find a way to bridge over those stereotypes that might otherwise detour students from becoming involved in the welding courses taught at the high school and eventually the welding industry. PRHS Welding will be able to focus on our areas of growth by creating a direct connection to our community centers, offering valuable outreach to younger students, promoting higher-level thinking and teaching skills to our high school students, and developing in-demand industry skills in teamwork and communication.”

Student engagement and success are two critical factors that are continuously at the forefront of education at Paso Robles High School. As a part of our ongoing self-evaluation and constant improvement, we have identified that the next level of training and skill development needs to come from outreach to our community; specifically with assisting students from minority and underserved populations in the city of Paso Robles. Oak Park Community Center offers students within their housing community a variety of opportunities to develop hands-on skills in career occupations as well as personal and leadership development through a foundation called YouthWorks. The vision of Pickard includes, “Partnering with YouthWorks to bring hands-on welding skills to the students of Oak Park Community Center through scheduled training sessions known as Bearcat Link with our new mobile training trailer. Bearcat Link provides high school students and instructors an opportunity to work with younger students from the Paso Robles area in their given career pathway focus at Paso Robles High School.” This project demonstrates two-fold success where the high school students demonstrate mastery skills in welding and becoming the teachers to educate youth; and secondly, the community students gaining an opportunity for practical skill-based learning that had previously been reserved for students at the high school.