PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Due to a grant received in 2012, Crook County High School students lead the way in career and technical education credits among Central Oregon high schools.
The school received a $234,000 21st Century Job Education grant from the state.
The grant allowed their students to earn 449 college credits last school year. That's 129 more credits than any other school on the High Desert.
That grant brought back the manufacturing and engineering program, which had been cut in 2009.
"I love the opportunity that our school gives us to be able to go into the shop and be able to work on our own project," senior Cody Newhouse said Tuesday.
Newhouse has been welding since he was in eighth grade. That kind of passion and drive runs rampant through the welding program.
"It's pretty cool when you build something for your own, and you put your hard work and your sweat in it, and be able to use it one of these days," said junior Tim Thomas.
The purpose of the CTE program is to give students real-life work experience in a classroom setting. In the manufacturing and engineering classes, students work on designing 3-D concepts, from start to finish.
"Pretty much our entire world is based around computers these days, and if you want to get a job in manufacturing, you have to have computer skills," said manufacturing and education teacher Bill Hall.
Senior Blake Smith is in the welding program for that same reason.
"This information is never going to go away," Smith said. "It's really good, and it will help you forever."
Although it's an imperfect craft, welding is one that allows you to get creative.
"It's kind of like an art," Newhouse said. "You make mistakes, and you're able to fix them, and you're able to take anything and just fix it."
It's best to learn by rolling up your sleeves and getting to work.
"I learn a lot better with hands on, and especially when there's someone there to help me out," Thomas said.
Agricultural education teacher Doug McNary said students enter his class with a wide range of experience. The ones who aren't as experienced are able to catch up, thanks to their peers.
"A lot of times, students will learn from other students more easily than they would from me," McNary said.
Those students consider themselves lucky to be able to set themselves up for the future.
"Every kid should have the opportunity to try it out," Newhouse said. "It really helps in our school."
All of the students I talked to would like to continue welding, whether it's privately or for a business, once they finish school.