Student spotlight: Female welder breaks generational curse

What’s your definition of the American dream? Maybe it’s a nice house, maybe it’s having your own sky view office, or maybe it’s all of the above. But for Del Mar College welding student, Joanna Tello, it’s a matter of breaking her generational curse of poor education.

A dream made possible, as she put it, through the help of Del Mar College.

According to DMC welding instructor, Richard Lugo, he estimates a total of 10-15 female students throughout the whole program, Tello included.

An unfortunate occurrence as Lugo describes the opinion of many instructors on their female welding students. 

“Honestly I think female welders are a lot more attentive to what we tell them to do,” Lugo said. 

“I think female welders are better than male welders.”  

Joanna Tello cutting pipe on the Windward Campus.

Yet, before deciding to pursue further education at DMC, Tello revealed the less glamorous path her generational curse had her heading down.

“My mom crossed over here to give us a better life. My father was born under a tree. The means and the finances were very rough back then, and growing up, I went through that too.”

She watched at a young age as her own father was first struck hard by the curse as he was unable to complete his own education and help support his family at the same time.

“Now, I think about it all the time. What my dad didn’t accomplish, I want to be able to accomplish,” Tello said.

Although temptations did strike hard on Tello’s life as she described the obstacles that first blocked her path. 

“My husband and I went through a separation at one point, and it led me to seek validation elsewhere. It led me to get into drugs, to get into alcohol.”

Going to jail was the life-changing moment for Tello, according to her, when she saw the true colors of the path she was headed toward.

“When everything started to happen, I understood, you know, that this is what needed to happen so that I could wake up and smell the roses, so that I could change my ways.”

From this, and realizing the importance of pursuing her education, Tello described her accidental transition into welding.

“I was actually doing lashes at home,” she said as she mentioned initially wanting to become certified through this. 

“I wanted to become fully certified, so I went calling schools around Corpus, but unfortunately, no one was offering a night class.” 

Due to Tello’s busy daytime work schedule, she knew the only suitable option for her to further pursue her education was to take night time classes, which is when she learned about the welding program. 

From there, she described her first moments walking onto the DMC Windward Campus with her brother and meeting one of the instructors, Willie Herrera.

“I was very blessed to see him that day,” Tello said. 

“He was like, ‘Yeah, we can get you on right now. We have a program where you get a full ride. They pay for your full semester, and for your tools.’”

“It wasn’t hard, because he pointed me in the right direction.”

With classes throughout the day to accommodate any type of work schedule, and scholarships for those who need it, Tello revealed the welding program and DMC itself to have provided the ultimate second chance she had been searching for.

“I’m very grateful and blessed that we’re able to apply for those scholarships because that helps me throughout my semester. That helps me with clothes, that helps me with tools, with gas, with food, and to buy food because it’s hard right now.”

“My kids are very proud of me. They go to school, and when the other kids ask, you know, ‘What does your mom do?’ They tell them. They tell them she’s a welder, and everybody’s response is, ‘Like a female welder?’”

Tello said, reflecting on her kids’ proud changed perspectives on her as a parent.

“When I’m in the booth welding and sometimes we get frustrated because we’re trying to get something and it’s hard. We have to practice and practice, and I just think about how far I’ve come, and how I want to make my parents proud, how I want to make my children proud.”

Tello credited God in playing a role in her transformation as well. “The Lord strengthens me,” she said. “Wherever God plants me, I’m going to go for it.”

Ultimately, with this certification, Tello hopes to fully achieve her American dream and accomplish what her parents couldn’t.

“The vision that I have is to make something of myself, to not always be from supervisor to supervisor. I want to be able to get out there and be my own boss.”

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