Olivia Mooney

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Working with her hands gives Shoreland graduate great satisfaction

Olivia Mooney isn’t sure what was the catalyst, but one day in her sophomore year of high school a stray thought popped into her head. Olivia was either going to be in farming or the trades.

That was three and a half years ago, and now Olivia has successfully completed her first semester in the welding program at Gateway Technical College in Racine.

“It randomly just popped into my head that I wanted to do this,” she says. “I have always loved helping my dad change light fixtures or work on cars.”

In 10th grade, she entered Shoreland Lutheran High School’s Skilled Trades Academy. The school, located in Somers, offers students basic training, with the opportunity for them to attend some technical school classes for post-secondary credit while they are still attending Shoreland. If they progress, they may also be an apprentice in a trade during their junior and senior year, with the possibility of walking into a job after graduation.

For Olivia, she decided to take things a bit slower to test whether this would be her calling. As a Shoreland student, she learned blueprint reading, took small engine and woodworking classes and learned about the trades. Welding captured her interest.

As she entered the Gateway welding classroom the first day, Olivia says she would have felt like “a lost little puppy” if it had not been for preparation she received at Shoreland.

For starters, Olivia is one of a few women in the trades program. But she had always been encouraged by the Skilled Trades Academy teachers and her parents to pursue her career. In particular, Olivia says Shoreland’s Mathematics Teacher Jason Hagedorn, Business Teacher Scott Zondag and Dean of Students Paul Strutz worked tirelessly to be sure that their students understood the concept or work they were presenting until everyone in the class mastered the task.

Olivia gets the same kind of support from her dad, who comes home from work as a machinist every day to hear what she has learned. “He is really giddy about this stuff,” she adds.

By the spring, Olivia will have completed her welding classes. “I won’t be certified, I just wanted to see if I really liked it first. I can then decide if I want to continue with two more years of welding to be certified and get an associate degree.”

That appears likely.

“I am really happy,” says the 18-year-old. “I love it so much.”