Maria Fernanda Mondragon studies welding and attends Greer High School in South Carolina

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

When I began high school, my older brother was a junior and went to Bonds Career Center for automotive. He was a really big inspiration in my decision.

Welding stood out to me because of the wages and I knew I didn’t want to do cosmetology, which is what my mom wanted me to do. Joining the welding class gave me the opportunity to learn and become good at a skill.

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

My first year welding was really fun and challenging all at the same time. I was learning how to weld in all processes and after every test at the end of each week, I could see my improvement.

My class was really cool because most of us didn’t know much about welding, including the guys. This gave us a fair shot to prove that just because you’re a girl, doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes to go into a male dominated industry.

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

I think the hardest thing was being in a class with a bunch of guys that tend to underestimate your skills. The second year was a lot easier in the sense that we already knew the way things worked. We knew what we had to work toward. Not that I wasn’t confident in my work before, but during my second year I really embraced my abilities.

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

Before thanksgiving break, our class had a tradition of telling everyone what we are grateful for. What I was most grateful for was the opportunities I was given by Mr. Squired and Mr. Varholy. If it wasn’t for them, I would have never found my passion for welding. They are the reason that we are more than just classmates, we are a family.

What are your next steps?

My hopes are to travel the country and the world as a pipe welder. I want to build a better future for myself and my family.