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Winsted welding classes spark change
Sept. 28, 2015

BY STARRLA CRAY
Associate Editor

Grace Homola goes for her goals
While many 18-year-olds are just starting their post-high-school education, 2015 Watertown-High School graduate Grace Homola already has the skills for her career.

“I wasn’t even going to go to college after I graduated – I’m so glad I did it,” commented Homola, who is about two weeks away from completing Dunwoody’s fast-track welding program in Winsted.

Homola’s first welding experience was third quarter of her senior year, when her younger brother and his friend signed up for a high school welding course.

“I took it with them, and enjoyed it so much that I took advanced welding fourth quarter,” Homola said.

When Homola looked into the welding program that Dunwoody College of Technology offers in Winsted, she knew it would be a good fit.

“I was so pumped that it was not even 15 minutes from my house,” she said.

Normally, Homola said she doesn’t excel at school, but welding is different.

“I’m actually doing really good in the class,” she said. “I feel like I’ve learned so much, and am still learning so much.”

For homework, Homola takes her truck out to the Crow River and sets up a study area on the tailgate.

“I like being outside,” she said, noting that her favorite winter activity is mono-skiing.

Homola has been in a wheelchair since she was 4 years old, but it hasn’t dampened her sense of adventure.

“My whole life I’ve had to adapt, and I’m not scared to try anything,” she said.

So far, Homola’s welding has all been tabletop, but she’s confident she’ll find a way if her job calls for other positions, or even climbing.

She’s also interested in CNC programming, which her father does as part of his stone mason business. All seven of Homola’s brothers have helped with the family business at some point.

Homola’s parents, Steve and Beth, have a total of 13 children.

“I’m number 12,” Homola said.

Homola’s goal is to become the best TIG welder possible.

“I had only done MIG welding in high school, but I like TIG welding better,” she said.

Homola has toured some of the companies that helped to start the Dunwoody welding program, and is looking forward to working at one of them.

“I’ve liked every place I’ve been at,” she said. “My favorite was probably AWI, but I’m planning to apply everywhere.”

Steven Treptau plans for a bright future
Life has been sweet for Steven Treptau since he graduated from the Dunwoody Training Center in Winsted a few months ago.

He closed on a house in Annandale last week, and will be marrying his fiancée, Crystal, in October. He also has a new welding job at Tetra Pak in Winsted.

“I’m not going to complain,” he laughed.

Treptau, a Buffalo native and 2011 graduate of Maple Lake High School, didn’t originally plan to have a career in welding.

“Right after high school, I went to school for automotive work,” he said. “My dad owns a shop in Corcoran, and my plan was to work there, and eventually, someday, maybe take it over.”

Plans changed, though, and Treptau ended up working for a concrete coating company for about four years.

“Then, this past winter it got really slow, and I didn’t work for a couple months,” he said.

At that point, Treptau decided it was time for a career change.

“You can’t get married, have a family, and buy a house with all those uncertainties,” he said.

Treptau remembered how much he’d enjoyed a welding class he’d taken through Wright Technical Center in high school, and decided to pursue it.

Many technical degrees take a full year or two to complete, but with the welding program in Winsted, Treptau was able to graduate in 16 weeks.

He remembers thinking, “By the time everyone else gets done with school, I’ll already have experience on the job; to me, that’s more valuable.”

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