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Tuba City High Student Wins SkillsNATIVE Welding Competition
by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer - The Navajo-Hopi Observer
credits: photos by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer - The Navajo-Hopi Observer

TUBA CITY, AZ - April Bracker, a senior at Tuba City High School and the daughter of Ruby and Davey Bracker, beat 16 student welding competitors to take first place in the 11th Annual SkillsNATIVE (Northeast Arizona Technological Institute of Vocational Education) competition.

Bracker competed against students from eight other area high schools including Chinle, Ganado, Monument Valley-Kayenta, Pinon, Red Mesa, Tuba City, Valley-Sanders and Window Rock in Gas Metal Arc Welding. She received a scholarship to attend Tulsa Welding School after she graduates this May.

The SkillsNATIVE consortium is designed to help young people work toward higher education, specialized professions or vocational training.

More than 200 students competed in the competition that took place at the Tuba City High Warrior Pavilion.

The SkillsNATIVE competition not only readies students for real careers but it also helps them be more successful in their job search by teaching them how to prepare a cover letter and sample resumes and to participate in "mock interviews."

The welding competition required each student to perform a specific welding procedure. The students had one hour and a half to perform the procedure in various positions, just as if they were in a real life work situation in tight spots, around corners and in very cold or very heated weather conditions.

Some were required to do STIG welding and to do other doing MIG welding in uphill, downhill or overhead situations.

"I have always really been interested in a hands-on career for myself," Bracker said. "Both my dad and my brother are welders and they travel everywhere to do commissioned welding work. I have seen job offers for welding on the Internet as far away as Australia and I think professional welding would also provide me a really rewarding way to travel as well, while doing a needed work service."

Bracker credited the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program at her school with helping her succeed.

"The course work at the TC High CTE program has shown me how to work with MIG welding, Oxy-acetaline gases using lots of math and science and of course firsthand safety, safety, safety in using the tools and equipment associated with welding," she said. "I really like how our teachers have shown us so much support, patience and constantly encouraging us to try our hardest, to work our hardest in our chosen areas of study."

Tuba City CTE welding teacher Jonathan Yazzie is proud of all his students but he had much to say about Bracker's future.

"April is just flat out gifted with welding," he said. "Usually I give my students about a month to master enough skill and knowledge to even be ready to enter into any of the local student vocational competitions, but April was ready within two weeks. Her errors were constantly decreasing, which shows a good sense of mastery for specific welding skills. When she gets to Tulsa Welding School in the fall, she'll continue her remarkable progress that she started here at Tuba High and will have it all down by the time she graduates from their program."

Bracker appreciates the support of her classmates as well.

"I also really appreciated how my own classmates, one of which also took second place in the Skills competition, Tonaph Scott, really supported me during the competition. They said, 'you got this April, you got this,'" Bracker said. "When the announcer started reading the names of the welding winners, he read third place, then second place and I was thinking 'oh no, I didn't place at all.' Then he read my name in first place, I was so overwhelmed!"

SkillsNATIVE is an overlay career technical education district that serves three counties and eight area Native high schools with approximately 2,200 CTE students from grades 10 to 12.

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