Kaskaskia College hosts third annual high school welding competition; Conagra awards scholarships to winners

March 31, 2021

High school students attending KC welding competition

Photo caption: Group picture from left to right. Seated: Chase Sorensen, Carlyle, Mark Rakers, Breese Central, Connor Briddick, Wesclin, and Christian Gonzalez, Wesclin. Standing: Mark Greene, Conagra, Connor Tebbe, Breese Central, Andrew Diesen, Breese Central, Caiden Hainke, Centralia, Trace Robinson, Central, Cole Tucker, Centralia, Elias Goodin, Mulberry Grove, Tucker Johnson, Mulberry Grove, Blake Scoggins, Mulberry Grove, Aaron Mercado, Wesclin, Don Haiker, Inspector Retired from JARCO, and Wil Trame.

Fourteen high school students from five local high schools competed in Kaskaskia College’s 3rd annual welding competition at the Crisp Technology Center on Friday, March 26. The students representing Breese Central High School, Carlyle High School, Centralia High School, Mulberry Grove High School, and Wesclin High School were scored on welding techniques, torch cutting, assembly, and shop etiquette.

Blake Scoggins of Mulberry Grove took first in the tight competition, with Aaron Mercado of Wesclin High School placing second and Conner Tebbe of Breese Central placing third. Scroggins won a 12-credit hour scholarship certificate to Kaskaskia College’s welding program. Mercado won a 3-credit hour scholarship certificate to the program. Conagra Brands in Centralia generously donated to award these scholarships. Mark Greene, maintenance manager at Conagra Brands, presented the awards.

“It was fantastic to have Conagra donate money towards the welding program scholarships,” expressed KC Welding Instructor Cory Wellen.

All 17 high schools in the KC district were invited to send students to participate. Wellen works with all interested students by hosting three open welding practices before the competition.
“The turnout to the practice sessions this year was very impressive,” said Wellen. “It shows the drive and work ethic of these young men. Every year, this competition seems to get bigger and better.”

Wellen also noted from the tough competition, and the high-quality work from the students presented reflect their high school instructors' dedication. Wellen thanked Matt Fisher of Wesclin, Steve Ellis of Breese Central, Randy Mustread of Centralia, Matt Elam of Mulberry Grove, and Jeff Jacobs of Carlyle for their time and hard work to ensure their students’ success. Wellen also thanked Don Haiker, formerly of JARCO in Salem, for taking the time to judge the competition. Haiker retired earlier this spring but has enjoyed judging the competition each year.

Several area employers contributed prizes and donations to the competition, including Gateway Sales, Engineered Solutions, Inc., ESI, and Miller Welders. A special thanks goes to Mike Freed of Cee Kay Supply for getting several donations towards sponsoring the competition.

“It is important that we continue to offer this competition and introduce our students to local industries,” said Wellen. “Right now, I have more companies in the area than students looking to employ welders. I hope this competition will continue to see that not only welding but all trades can offer high-paying jobs while keeping skilled labor in the area.”

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