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Alcona High ag mechanics class giving kids hands-on experience

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Alcona High School students Cayden Hendrix and Makala Mendyka work with teacher Connor Hubbard on a small engine in the school’s Ag Mechanics and Sustainability class on Dec. 5.

LINCOLN — Alcona High School students have the opportunity to build their expertise in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, thanks to a new class.

The school started offering students an Ag Mechanics and Sustainability class last school year, which teaches them about small-engine teardown and rebuilding, along with plasma-cutting and welding.

Alcona Community Schools Superintendent Dan O’Connor said the class was offered for one hour last school year, but, because of its popularity, is offered two separate hours this school year.

“Last year was a refine process, and this year, we’re able to offer two hours, because of the kids and them spreading the word,” O’Connor said. “When you get to offer a hands-on course for the kids, that’s huge.”

The district received a $3,000 Michigan Future Farmers of America Foundation Glassbook grant three years ago to start purchasing a tool box and tools for the class, teacher Connor Hubbard said.

“Running a class like this requires hands-on tools, because it’s hands-on and when receiving that grant, it allowed us to kind of start the class or at least become an option,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard said learning the basic processes of welding and plasma-cutting and will expose the students to new opportunities.

“If they have something that broke down at home or on the job they might be working at with their career in the future, they might be able to handle that and be comfortable trying to fix that up,” Hubbard said.

Junior Makala Mendyka said she feels privileged to take the class, because not everyone is able to take it.

“It’s new (and) it’s challenging,” Mendyka said. “I’ve learned patience — a lot of patience. You learn something new that not everybody is going to learn.”

Students will also learn about chemistry standards, which Hubbard said they will accomplish by producing biodiesel.

“We’re really ramping up what we can offer our students in the ag mechanics realm,” Hubbard said. “The overall goal is what they learn here could transfer to jobs in our community, because there’s a need for people with hands-on skills to work in the mechanics realm of things.”

Sophomore Cayden Hendrix said being hands-on in the class has helped him learn better.

“I’m glad that our school’s able to do it and I’m able to be a part of it,” Hendrix said.

Hubbard has plans to expand the class by having the students learn about tractor safety with a tractor the school has.

“Since we are able to start this ag mechanics program, we were able to purchase a new tractor and that allows us to have newer equipment that kids could run,” Hubbard said.