LaTasha, 21, is from a small town called Klagetoh in the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona. LaTasha graduated from the RSI Welding Specialist program in December 2019.
Thanks for your time, LaTasha. What did you do before going to welding school in Phoenix?
I worked in construction, mostly laboring. I worked for a couple of construction companies, got laid off, and then went to work doing construction work for Southwest Conservation Corps up on the reservation. It’s kind of a community service organization.
What made you think about welding school?
To be honest, welding wasn’t my priority. When I thought about going back to school I wanted to be a veterinarian. It was my cousin who got me thinking about it. He wanted to be a welder, and I used to watch him weld things. It just clicked in my head. I thought, welding seems fun, I’m going to try it.
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Did you just watch, or did you try welding yourself?
I didn’t touch a welding machine until I came to RSI!
How did you discover our welding program in Phoenix?
My cousin showed me the school, and I decided to check it out. I filled out the form on the website and someone called me. I was still working up on the reservation at the time so it took a while to get down, but I decided to come to Phoenix and take a tour. I liked the tour so much that I just wanted to get that career going. I started about a month later. I lived with my aunt down here.
Did you cousin come to the school too?
No, he didn’t. He introduced me to welding, but now I’m welding and he isn’t.
Having never welded before, how was the first phase? Was it scary?
I got right into it, to be honest. I liked how it felt, and I liked learning something new. When I learn something new I like to stick with it. Welding came pretty easy to me, welding plates and pipes, and all the things we did with stick, then MIG and TIG. I enjoyed it. It was fun!
What did you enjoy most about RSI?
Everyone there is so friendly. If I needed help with my welding, the instructors were always there for me. When I got stuck on something, they would show me the technique step by step. I was completely new to welding, so I always needed help. They were always there for me, helping me to get right, even if it took a couple of tries to get it perfect. They always said, “Practice makes perfect!”
What class did you do? And did you do extra practice?
I did the morning shift, and yes, I often stayed on after class to practice. Sometimes I worked into the second shift, and sometimes into the third shift in the evening. I was lucky. Because I lived with my aunt I didn’t have to work. I could focus completely on what I was trying to learn.
Were there other women in your welding class?
There were a couple of other girls. We all got on great. The whole class treated each other like family.
Was there a time when you got frustrated, or thought about quitting?
Quitting never crossed my mind. I just concentrated on getting better, trying to learn more and more.
So you graduated six months ago. Where are you working?
I’ve been working for a medical company called ASI in Glendale. They always have things that need to be rebuilt or repaired. I now have my own place in Mesa, and I have a company car to get over to Glendale every day. They like the way I work, and are actually helping me set up my own company.
How did you get the job?
I used to help them out before I went to RSI. When I told them I’d finished welding school, they asked me if I would work for them. They needed repairs, wanted me to help build a ramp for them, so I said, “Sure I can do that for you!” I work 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. I really enjoy it. There are one or two other welders there helping me to learn more. I’m actually getting experience working on a diesel engine too.
Are you happy with the money you’re making as a welder?
I’m making a lot more than I have ever before!
Did you do anything fun with your first paycheck?
I’m actually more likely to get something for my family than for myself. I try to help my brothers, or my sister, or my parents. At the time, I worked on getting a vehicle for my brother and my mom.
Where do you see your welding career going from here?
In about a year, once I’ve got some more experience, I’d like to go back to school to get an associate’s degree in welding. They don’t offer that program yet at RSI. Then I would like to go work for the railroad. I have an uncle that works for the railroad as a welder. He told me about working there and it sounds fun. I’d like to try it.
What do you enjoy most about your new trade?
I’m the first person in my family to actually graduate from a trade. What I like the most is when my family or friends come to me and ask me to help repair something for them. That makes me proud. They always want me to teach them how to weld. I’m also working on some metal art projects right now for little gifts; I enjoy that part of it, too.
Did you make some good connections, some friends, at RSI?
I actually made quite a lot of friends at RSI. On the last day, we were devastated that we were all going our separate ways because, after seven months of the program, we all got so close to one another. I still stay in contact with my friends. We check in on each other to see how we’re doing, how work is going.
What advice do you have for new students just starting out at RSI?
Always keep your head up! Don’t think negatively, or care what other people think, just concentrate on yourself. When you are stuck on something, go to the instructor and ask for help. If you need more time, you can always stay and work on whatever you’re stuck on. If you’re stuck in class, you can ask for a study partner. You guys can work on the problem together, and you can both succeed together.
If you’re an RSI graduate and would like to share your success story and be an inspiration to others, please email [email protected] to be considered for a Graduate Connection interview. Please include details such as your graduation date (month/year), and program.