‘Why not try it’

From left, Allison Morton, Caitlyn Green, and Tammy Kelsoe are welding students at Wallace State.

From left, Allison Morton, Caitlyn Green, and Tammy Kelsoe are welding students at Wallace State.

Being a single parent has many challenges, but throw in a fulltime college schedule and the challenges rise to an even higher level. Caitlyn Green, Allison Morton, and Tammy Kelsoe can definitely attest to the struggles. All three women are currently in their second year at Wallace State Community College in Oneonta.

The women, who are slated to graduate in May 2019, have chosen a profession generally held by men. They took advantage of the Women’s Fund of Birmingham Future Foundation Scholarship and enrolled in the welding program. This $5,000 scholarship is offered to women who are single Blount County mothers. The recipients also have to be eligible for a Pell Grant.

Each woman had a different journey prior to entering the program, but decided to venture out and pursue a career in the welding profession.

Green, a single mother of three, said, “I had never welded a day in my life. I realized there is good money in welding and thought, ‘Why not try it.’”

She now loves welding. Green also wants people to know that it doesn’t matter if you are a single mom. Don’t get discouraged because you can do whatever you set your mind to do.

Morton, whose child was born just after she graduated high school, didn’t know what direction to take. Her parents heard about the Women’s Fund scholarship, and she saw it as an opportunity she wanted to pursue. Morton had some basic knowledge of welding since it was part of the shop class she had taken while a sophomore in high school.

When asked what it was like to be studying in a predominantly male class, Morton said she has received a lot of positive reinforcement. She feels a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment since beginning in the welding program. She went on to say, “Here, we are one big family. We are welders, not male or female.”

Morton has career plans that include doing welding repairs. She does not see herself in a production-type job.

Welding is nothing new to Kelsoe, as she has been around it all her life. She characterized herself as “growing up in a man’s world.”

Kelsoe, also a single mother, entered the welding program later in life. She has four children, three of whom are still dependent on her.

Kelsoe said she has had jobs where she kissed her children good morning and returned home just in time to kiss them good night. She wanted to pursue a career with a more flexible schedule and has hopes of starting up a mobile welding shop of her own.

According to Kelsoe, there is only one other person in Blount County who does mobile welding. As this will help fulfill her dream, it will also help others by saving them time and effort, which in turn allows them to keep their business flowing as smoothly as possible.

Kelsoe encourages single moms and older females to consider this program. She said, “Just because you are female doesn’t mean you can’t do it.”

Welding instructor Chris Posey is proud of the Oneonta welding program. He said students could earn their welding certificate in 18 months, but most attend two years and also obtain their associate degree, which may help them as they further develop their careers.

The Oneonta welding program has 18 slots, but Posey is hopeful that number will increase in the near future. The students attend class Monday through Thursday, from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. The course is designed as a primarily hands-on program, with as much as 80 percent shop time and 20 percent classroom time.

Posey said they currently have two more Women’s Fund grants available and encourages single moms to apply. He also has information about a scholarship by Altec, Inc. that is open for any welding student. Altec builds truck beds for Alabama Power and is in need of workers.

Anyone interested in learning more about the welding program can contact Posey at 334-559-4782.