Athena Giovanna Hernandez-Zuniga studies welding and attends Greer High School in South Carolina

What influenced you as you made your decisions regarding your career pathway?

I was inspired to take a welding class because my dad, Cesar Zuniga, used to be a welder. Mr. Varholy came to Greer High School and talked to us about the program. I found it very interesting and realized quickly why my dad worked in welding for so long.

After you made your career pathway choice, what was your first year like?

I was only in 10th grade when I started welding school. I loved welding after I got a handle on it. My favorite part of each day was waking up and getting to weld for a whole two and a half hours.

My favorite memory was certification week. I passed two certifications on the first try, using what we call “the Heartbreaker”, which is a bending tool used to see how good your welds are.

What challenges have you faced as a result of choosing your current career path?

I chose this class over the others because I already knew how to do makeup and hair, and I really wanted to try something new like welding. I wanted to show the guys that I can still be a girly girl who likes to dress up, but that I can also handle a job like welding and be good at it.

What experience was most memorable for you in your welding class?

We did a lot of hands-on learning, which I think is excellent for a welding program. When we struggled to do something, the teachers would get in the booth alongside us and help us.

What are your next steps?

I plan on using everything that I learned in class to continue my career in welding. I love talking to people and am very good at communicating, so I plan to major in business. I will use the business to sell products in big companies for welding shops.