“Leo Guevara is a former machine tool student here for two years at the Mayfield-Graves County Area Technology Center, coming from Graves County High School,” said ATC principal Mike Miller. “Last year as a senior, he competed in the state Skills USA competition and won the manual machine contest. So, that afforded him a scholarship to attend West Kentucky Community and Technical College. He now is enrolled in their five-semester industrial maintenance program.” Miller considers Guevara an ATC success story.
“At first, I really wasn’t that interested (in ATC classes) until my brother took a machining class his senior year,” Guevara explained. “He suggested I try it. The first day, I didn’t care too much for it, but at the end of the first three weeks, I realized I really liked it.”
Guevara continued, “I started my junior year. The teacher, Mr. (Chad) Pickard, is really helpful and I’m really thankful for him and all that he’s done for me. The first year at the ATC for me was just an introduction to machining; so, we did a lot of conventional work, mostly on the lathe.”
During his senior year, Guevara continued developing his skills on the lathe and milling machine through more advanced and complex projects.
“It takes someone in this trade to put the math into a project and use the mind as well as his hands,” said Pickard. “Leo was a great student. He caught on very, very quickly. Most of my students are in the program for three years. It says something about Leo that he won the state championship after only two years.”
“Obviously, Leo excelled in the two years he was here,” Miller agreed. “He worked really hard, perfecting his skills. So, the success is always a result of hard work. What we want to promote at the ATC is that we will give you everything you need to succeed – the tools, the equipment, and the opportunity, but the hard work is something you have to bring.”
Miller continued, “All that work toward winning that state competition is really key for Leo because that scholarship he was awarded was a result of finishing first in the state. So, now he is able to enter in the industrial maintenance program at WKCTC, all expenses paid.”
In his first semester at WKCTC, Guevara is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in industrial maintenance, which generally takes two years to complete. Jonathan Baker is the Industrial Maintenance Program instructor at the WKCTC Skilled Craft Training Center.
In building on his high school ATC experience, Guevara has observed that at the college level, “You’re more independent. There’s a lot more work outside of the school day. What makes this (college) program really awesome is that you have all these trades put into one class. At the same time, all of it is really condensed, so it’s a lot of work in a very short time. We just got done with hydraulics and pneumatics and now we’re working with electricity. So, it’s a lot different than what I was doing at the ATC, but it’s good. At the end, I’ll have my machining classes, too. That will be in my sophomore year.”
“For the most part, employers in a Calvert City-type plant will want to hire someone with the skills Leo is developing,” said Miller. “He will possess electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, welding, and machining skills. He becomes a valued employee who can do a number of different things. I think when he completes this degree and becomes a full-time employee, he could start out making in the mid-$40,000 range. If he decided to move to the Louisville area, he probably could add another $8,000 to $10,000 per year. This is all a great opportunity for him; he will do tremendously well. There’s no doubt about that.”
It normally takes machine-tooling students at Kentucky’s area technology centers three years to learn enough to place highly in state competition. After only two years of instruction, Graves County resident Leo Guevara won the state Skills USA competition in the manual machine contest. That, in turn, led to a full scholarship to West Kentucky Community and Technical College and likely a lucrative career in the field. For Guevera and students like him, it all started at the Mayfield-Graves County Area Technology Center.
(photo by Paul Schaumburg, Graves County Schools)