Central Grads Earn College Diploma Before High School Graduation




Sheboygan Central High School graduates, Jesus Lopez, Jesse Oltrogge, Gilberto Gonzalez and Courtland Shulak joined many of their classmates by receiving their high school diplomas during Commencement Ceremonies at Vollrath Park last Sunday. Unlike most of their classmates, it wasn't their first diploma since they already participated in graduation exercises at Lakeshore Technical College three weeks earlier having earned Welding Industrial Technical Diplomas even before finishing high school.


The four classmates were introduced to the welding field through a program called Early College in which they attended high school classes in the morning and welding classes in the afternoons at LTC while receiving both college and high school credits over the past two years. In fact, all four passed their state welding certification in early June and are employment ready.


"I did Project GRILL and liked the welding part of it," said Lopez, who plans to enroll in the Fabrication Technician program at LTC in January to add to his welding skills. "To get a job you need experience and this program gives me experience and my state certification."


Like Lopez, Jesse Oltrogge participated in Project GRILL in which students from area high schools form teams to design and build unique charcoal grills, learning engineering, manufacturing and teamwork skills in the process. Oltrogge also plans to increase his welding abilities through the Fabrication Technician program.


"I heard about this through my teacher at Central, Mrs. Leonhard," said Oltrogge. "It's been great and she has been a huge help, especially with Project GRILL. I just found out I got a scholarship through Project GRILL and also got another scholarship through LTC and that will help me pay for my Fab Tech classes."


Gonzales will also enter the Fabrication Technician program along with Oltrogge and Lopez. The three will complete the program in just 6 months by attending the classes 8 hours per day, Monday through Friday, just like a professional welding position would through an employer.


"It was tough but I'm really glad I went through this because I learned a lot and got the chance to meet some employers on campus," said Gonzales. "This is what I want to do for my career and I can't wait to get started in Fab Tech."


Shulak, who plans to enter the workforce immediately, agrees it was not always easy to complete the Early College program. "It's a big time commitment to do both high school and the welding program but I know I want to be a welder so it was definitely worth it. We had a shuttle van through LTC that really helped with the transportation and our instructors were really great."

Along with Central High teacher Mary Leonhard, LTC Welding Instructor Dave Saunders spent countless hours tailoring the program to accommodate the students. The program continues to grow with more high schools beginning to participate and other programs are being offered to students during their senior year.


"Watching these young men learn and grow is the best part of my job," said Saunders. "They worked very hard to accomplish this and I'm really proud of them and some employer will be lucky to have these guys someday. Not many can say they graduated from high school, earned a college diploma and a state certification all in the same month." 


About Lakeshore Technical College

Each year more than 10,000 people enroll in courses at Lakeshore Technical College. They rely on LTC for job preparation, to earn a degree, upgrade a specialized skill, train as an apprentice, or seek a high school equivalency. LTC faculty and staff meet students where they are in life and help them get one step closer to achieving their goals.

LTC is a nationally recognized technical college. The college was ranked the #2 two-year college in the nation for adult learners by Washington Monthly, the #17 trade school in the nation by Forbes, #11 in the nation for two-year college educational outcomes by WalletHub.com, a top-150 two-year college for the fifth consecutive time by the Aspen Institute, and a top 10 Bellwether Award finalist.

Approximately 800 students graduate from LTC each year, and LTC’s associate degree graduates earn a median salary of $47,800* per year. In addition to the Cleveland campus, LTC serves students in Manitowoc and Sheboygan, and offers classes at additional sites throughout the district. Visit LTC at gotoltc.edu.

*Source: 2019 LTC Graduate Outcomes report, 795 graduates contacted to complete the survey; 508 graduates or 64% completed the survey.

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