RUSSELL Representatives of TC Energy appeared at Russell Area Technology Center to hand-deliver a check of $20,150.
Staff, students and community members of RATC gathered Thursday afternoon to acknowledge the significance of the grant issued and partnership between TC Energy. The grant will support RATC’s efforts in providing education and training to students in the field of energy.
Austin Brislin, Manager of United States Gas Operation at TC Energy, was among the people in attendance.
“We are here to share in the opportunity to invest in the local community by investing in education here at the Russell Area Technology Center,” Brislin said. “TC Energy has partnered with this program to provide new equipment to the students to be able to advance their skill set in the trades of welding and pipeline construction.
“We work in this area daily and to be able to give back to the community and invest in students going to school in this area. It’s just a great opportunity.”
Aaron Woolum, an RATC welding teacher, said the grant money will benefit all programs inside the school.
“It’s a huge opportunity for our program, for our students and the whole community,” Woolum said. “All of the programs in this school are going to benefit from this because we are able to spread this out. What we don’t have to spend on the welding program, we can invest in other programs. It’s a win for everybody.”
Eight students — some juniors, but mostly seniors — have been working on a metal sculpture project since the beginning of the school year of which has been submitted in a national art contest with a theme of “sparkling in the stars” celebrating 50 years of the space shuttle program.
“Nobody in the nation has submitted a metal sculpture for the contest,” Woolum said. “We are pioneering a new category on a national scale. We took the theme, got a size and scale in mind and just ran with it. We’ve been working on it since the second week of the school year and just finished it up last week.”
Woolum said the grant could not have come at a better time considering the outdated equipment in the school.
“In order to teach the students skills they need, we need the materials, we need the equipment and we need to stay up to date,” Woolum said. “Some of the welding machines that we have are older machines and older units. There is only so much you can get out of it with limited resources.”
He said the money awarded will help diversify what students at Russell Area Technology Center get to experience and contribute to the real-world side of it.
“This grant is going to be a great opportunity for us to purchase a couple new machines, get updated equipment so that way we can expand on the type of welding procedures we are teaching,” he said.
Terry Vest, Russell Board of Education Chair, spoke briefly to the people gathered at RATC. He said he was happy for the students and congratulated them for maneuvering around difficult times with the equipment they did have.
“Students, congratulations to you guys, you’ve been pioneers in the program and, on behalf of the board of education, thank you very much for all those involved,” Vest said.
Sean Moore, Principal of Russell Area Technology Center, described the day as exciting and said he expects the grant to revitalize the program.
“This is one of those exciting days as a principal and we are so thankful for TC Energy for the more than generous grant that we were able to receive from them. The exciting part is the impact it’s going to have on our students.”
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