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

Lakeshore Technical College is a leading provider of technical education offering more than 120 career programs including associate degrees, technical diplomas, technical certificates and apprenticeship programs. In addition, LTC offers distance learning, customized training to business and industry, and continuing education opportunities.

Serving a 200,500-resident population in east central Wisconsin, LTC operates a main campus in Cleveland and additional learning sites at LTC Manitowoc, LTC Sheboygan, LTC-Plymouth Science & Technology Center, and the Lakeshore Culinary Institute. The college also operates Community Education Centers at area high schools in Elkhart Lake, Cedar Grove-Belgium, Howards Grove, Kiel, Mishicot, Oostburg, Plymouth, Random Lake, Reedsville, and Two Rivers; and 27 distance learning sites. LTC's mission is to enrich lives and strengthen the economy by preparing a workforce that is skilled, diverse and flexible. On average, 87% of LTC graduates work in the LTC District which includes Manitowoc and Sheboygan Counties, and parts of Calumet and Ozaukee Counties. Visit LTC at: gotoltc.edu.

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