KCC Sweeps Welding

Beginning welders earned first and second in district event
By: Todd Martin
A first-year sophomore welding student teared up when she found out on a recent Saturday that her team swept the awards at the district Skills USA competition.
Killeen ISD Career Center advanced welding students took first, second and third place in individual welding challenges, a group of five earned first place in a project category for a large barbecue grill and two first-year students took first and second place in welding 1.
Senior Aneli Lugo and sophomore Isabella Palmisano took the first-second sweep in the first-year welding challenge.
While they don’t make a big deal of it, the fact they are both girls excelling at a district-level competition in welding certainly generated interest and notice.
Career Center welding instructor John Bridenstine has taught a lot of students and seen them win a lot of awards over the years.
There are typically two or three girls in the program, though welding continues to be a male-dominated work field, but for two girls to win at competition is unusual, he said.
The first- and second-place finishers in beginning and advanced categories continue on to state Skills USA competition in April in Corpus Christi.
Lugo said she has an uncle familiar with welding and that he and her mother convinced her to give it a try at the Career Center.
Palmisano participated in the popular wood shop class at Eastern Hills Middle School, where she learned to work with wood.
She figured working with metal would be a natural progression.
Both girls found the work challenging and rewarding and said the males in the class treat them like sisters.
“I’ve done construction, so I decided I wanted to try metal,” Palmisano said. “It’s amazing.”
The sophomore is also a member of the Harker Heights High School Crimson Belles dance team and is used to the surprise from friends and teachers at the unusual combination, but she enjoys both.
The two girls said they were looking to try something different in school and found it in welding.
“I like how the welds come out pretty,” said Lugo
In the district competition, the first-year welders received blueprints with instructions that contained various kinds of welds that took about three hours to complete.
“When I got the message that we swept the welding, I cried,” Palmisano said. As the second-place finisher, she will continue to state and compete in a written test. Lugo, the first-place finisher, will compete in welding.
The pair plan to work together in preparation.
“It’s rewarding to do what you want to do, to qualify for district and now to get to go to state,” said Lugo.
“We can say ‘this is mine,’” Palmisano said of the awards. “We earned it.”