Laona students give back to community, build future careers with welding program expansionSubmitted: 05/15/2019
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Laona students give back to community, build future careers with welding program expansion
LAONA - Metal supports popped and fell at the Laona cemetery on Wednesday as workers took down the old entry arch with a blowtorch.

The job is making way for something new, courtesy of students at Laona High School.

"They're really ambitious, and they want to get a whole bunch done," Laona tech ed instructor Ryan Kelley said of his students.

The group is creating a new welcome arch made of steel, to be unveiled on Memorial Day.

While working at the high school, they're on their way to a Nicolet College welding diploma through a new pilot program.

"You can tell when you show up here that they have a good group of students in the trades and they really believe in building community," said Nicolet College welding instructor Craig Deer, who visits the class once a week.

Laona High School is one of five area schools in the pilot program, which allows students to make progress on a college welding checklist before high school graduation.

More welders in the area are desperately needed, according to Deer. Companies call him constantly, looking for new employees, and the average age of Northwoods welders is 57 years old.

Senior Jade Kitchmaster has made progress toward a welding certificate while at Laona.

"I've never really been the girly girl," she said.

She took to the trades in junior high and has loved them since.

"I was always the first one to say, 'Oh, I want to do that, I want to try that,'" she remembered.

Kitchmaster plans to attend UW-Green Bay to become a veterinarian. But welding is an excellent backup if that falls through.

"Our kids are all on different pathways, and they're not all four-year college degree-type students," said Jim Bradley, the middle and high school principal at Laona.

Bradley wants to provide opportunities for all his students, like ones who do better with a welder rather than a textbook.

"For us to be able to help these kids get those types of jobs, if they want to stay in the area and they're good at it," Bradley said. "We're also providing those employers with good people."

Not long ago, one of those employers, Cleereman Industries in Newald, sent Bradley an email. It praised Laona High School graduates for designing a new piece of equipment now on the market.

"When you get an email that tells you that they're proud of the school and the students that we're producing, that says it all," Bradley said, pausing with pride.

Today's students could be the ones creating the next product locally.

But right now, the crew has eight school days to finish this part of its legacy, the entry arch at the cemetery.

Next year, Laona hopes to graduate its first high school student who has already completed a full welding diploma.

It's also expanding its graphic arts and business programs.

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com


WOOD COUNTY - State Highway 13 is closed in both directions just south of Wisconsin Rapids due to a crash.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - The Oneida County Health Department told people to stay away from a popular freshwater spring this week after tests showed high levels of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the water.

The Crescent Spring on South River Road joins the nearby Rhinelander municipal Well 7 with high PFAS levels.

The Health Department and DNR don't know where the contamination is coming from.

"Especially when we're talking about the Crescent Spring and the sheer number of people that get their water from the Crescent Spring, we definitely wanted to be proactive [in keeping people away from it]," said Todd Troskey, an environmental health specialist with the Health Department.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - ArtStart in Rhinelander features the work of artists from all over the world in many different mediums. 

Now it'll share the life story of two famous Mexican artists.

+ Read More

ARPIN - A tractor versus truck crash in Wood County caused significant injuries after the tracker operator was thrown from their seat.

It happened shortly before 12:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

The tractor was traveling north on County Hwy K when it was rear-ended by a truck.

The tractor driver was airlifted to the hospital by Life Link of Marshfield. The truck driver was treated for minor injuries and let go.

The names of those involved are not being released at this time. 

The Wood County Sheriff's Office and Wisconsin State Patrol will investigate the crash. 

The Marshfield Police Department, Arpin Fire Department and Pittsville Ambulance also responded to the scene.

+ Read More

Play Video

WAUSAU - A new furniture gallery at the Wausau Center mall hopes to bring back customers and jobs to the struggling shopping center. 

+ Read More

FORT SCOTT, KS - A man charged with tampering with a vehicle owned by two missing Wisconsin brothers is facing new charges in Kansas.

The Kansas City Star reports Garland Nelson is charged in Bourbon County, Kansas, with endangering the food supply. Prosecutors say Nelson didn't have proper health papers when he took 35 calves from his family's farm in Missouri to a farm in Fort Scott, Kansas, in May.

+ Read More

GREEN BAY - Dash cam video captured a wild police chase in Brown County last Friday. The driver led police across two counties and into oncoming traffic.

The chase began when someone called 911 to report a dangerous driver.

The chase reached speeds of 100 mph as Jonathan Tease, drove into oncoming traffic. It lasted about 45 minutes and covered more than 40 miles.

+ Read More
+ More General News