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The Reach

All the latest information, news and stories to inspire and inform Phi Theta Kappa members

People of PTK: Andrew Kirkpatrick

People of PTK: Andrew Kirkpatrick

In the early morning hours after his high school graduation, Andrew Kirkpatrick packed up and drove with his father from Los Angeles to Billings, Missouri. He had just accomplished what few teachers ever thought he would, and he was thinking about the road ahead.

Only, he wasn’t necessarily thinking about college. In elementary school, he’d fallen behind in reading and was put in special education classes through junior high, until his momentum shifted. He’d been told he probably wouldn’t graduate from high school.

“I took things into my own hands,” he said. “I wanted to prove them wrong, and I was driven to improve myself.”

Andrew finished high school with a 3.6 GPA and began considering his next step. He’d always been good at working with his hands and had picked up many skills from his father, grandfather and uncles.

One uncle, a welder in the Navy, has a shop down the road from Andrew’s home in Billings. Andrew wanted to follow in his uncle’s footsteps and saw it as a good way to make a living. He decided to learn the trade.

Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) is about a 20-minute drive from Andrew’s home in Billings. It had everything he wanted, if not more, and he initially set out to get his certificate in welding, which he’ll receive this month.

After finishing his first semester at the top of his class — despite never having welded before — Andrew’s confidence grew, and he decided to give an associate degree in welding a shot. He’s taking general education courses, was exempt from his math final, has a 4.0 GPA, and is on track to graduate in spring 2018.

“I never thought it would have been possible,” he said. “When you think of college, it sounds so terrifying; but when you break it down course by course, it’s not that hard.

“It just goes to prove that hard work does pay off.”

Andrew was invited to join Phi Theta Kappa toward the end of his freshman year. It was another affirmation that he was on the right path.

And, it was yet another way of proving wrong the naysayers from his past.

“I never thought (Phi Theta Kappa would) want anything to do with me,” he said. “I felt so honored to be invited. It was the icing on the cake.”

Andrew is also a member of the American Welding Society. His peers in the Springfield Chapter noticed his potential and selected him to attend a leadership conference this summer.  

And, he and his team placed first overall in welding fabrication in a recent SkillsUSA district competition and third overall in the state competition. Andrew grabbed first place in the writing portion of the district competition.

Upon graduation next year, Andrew hopes to work for a company like ABEC, which provides engineering, equipment, and services to the biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry. The organization gives support to the life-changing advances being made in the Life Science Industry, and Andrew is eager to help them make a difference.

In the meantime, Andrew is usually found behind a welder’s mask either at home, his uncle’s, or at OTC. When he finishes classes, he often heads straight to the OTC welding shop to see if his teachers need help with anything or to assist new students in the welding program.

“I’ve had tremendous teachers here,” he said. “I’ve been lucky to learn from these teachers and from my dad, my uncles, and my grandfather. I’ve had a great group of people who’ve helped well-round me.”

Photo Credit: Kristina Bridges-Templeton, Ozarks Technical Community College

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