Magnolia Bates is building her dream for a better future with a welder’s torch.
She is one of about 15 students earning a certificate in welding through a partnership between Community Renewal’s Adult Renewal Academy and Northwest Louisiana Technical College. Red Ball Oxygen has donated welding rods and equipment.
“Some people told me that welding was for a man, not a woman, but I like challenges. I like using the torch and building things,” she said. Magnolia, a mother of three, is an ARA student who is close to graduating.
“I want to start my own soul food business – I’ve already had training in culinary arts – and then I can use my welding skills to work on my own building.”
One of the best rewards of this new Community Renewal outreach: Students not only learn a marketable job skill; they also learn self-confidence. “This is building me up and building my self-esteem. I feel like I don’t have to worry about anything because this takes stress off of me.”
Students meet on Saturday mornings on the LTC Shreveport campus with Allendale Community Coordinator Emmitt Welch, also an experienced welder.
“Without this class, some of these students would be at home watching the wind blow through the trees. Their lives would be at a dead end,” he said. “This program gives them hope. They will become responsible, productive citizens because of this class.”
Teacher Harris Williams, a welder for 40 years, said helping these students is one way of giving back to the community.
“My hope is they complete their welding education and get their diploma. They can make a good living in this and we are getting them ready to do that,” he said.
Peyton Radabaugh would like to enter the military and take on underwater welding jobs.
“When you are welding, you don’t have to think about bills and your problems. You focus on your work. For me, it’s like having a hobby as a job,” he said.
“This is a great opportunity for me. I am learning responsibility and I am growing up. Now I have a lot of hope for my future.”
Theresa Brown is learning welding because she wants to work with her father and brothers.
“This gives me a job skill I can do at my own pace. And when I accomplish something I feel very proud,” she said. “Without the ARA, I would probably be in a New Orleans bar. The ARA is making a 100 percent positive difference in my life.”