First recorded female welding grad

Zach Sullivan, Reporter

Christin Celedon, a 29-year-old Bakersfield College student, will be one of the first women in school history to graduate with an Associates of Science in welding. While Celedon claims administration is unable to confirm whether or not she will be the first woman to attain this degree, she is confident she will be the first to do so.

Jeremy Staat, a welding professor at Bakersfield College, confirmed in an email to the Rip that Celedon will be the first women to graduate the program as far as he knows.

According to a 2013 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 7.8 percent of welders in the United States are women. This statistic is eye- opening, and makes Celedon’s graduation even more significant. In a profession dominated by men, Celedon is truly making history not just at BC, but in the profession as a whole.

Originally, Celedon did not set out to become a welder. Coming out of high school, she was not sure what she wanted to do.

Kyle Chidgey/ The Rip

“I originally went to school for English. Growing up I really didn’t know what I was good at, you have only so many options to choose from, so I didn’t know about the multitude of opportunities out there besides a four-year degree,” she said

“I chose English because I love to write, I love poetry, short stories, open mic events. So I figured, ‘hey I wanna be a published author one day, lets shoot for English’. I went here [BC] from 2005 to 2009, then I went to Cal State from 2009 to 2012 and got my B.A. in English, minor in Communications.”

After graduating from Cal State Bakersfield in 2012, she accepted a position as a case coordinator with a company called California PyschCare. For three and a half years, she worked with autistic children and their families. While it was a nice job with good pay, she knew inside that it wasn’t for her. “I was working 10-12 hour days and I wasn’t eating right, I wasn’t doing anything for myself, I was drained from working 50 hour weeks.”

“It was really draining, not only emotionally, but physically and mentally. I’m usually always a positive person but I became affected and I became angry inside. I thought, ‘wow can I see myself doing this for 30 more years as a career?’ I just had a panic attack, and I knew then it wasn’t for me despite the fact that I had trained hundreds of people and worked with hundreds of children,” she said.

Celedon decided to leave her job as a case coordinator, and go back to school for welding. She had tried to apply for the program once before. “I had originally tried a couple years ago and I couldn’t get in. It was a very demanding program and I was on the waitlist. They told me, ‘sorry you can’t get in.’”

Celedon explained that she went back to school to pursue welding not only for her herself, but in the memory of her grandfather and other family members she had lost. “I lost my grandfather about six years ago, and he was a welder. But I was the baby in the family so I never got to learn anything from him because he was already retired. But after losing him, and my grandma, and my uncle and my cousins, I lost a lot of people all within a couple years so that’s what sparked a fire in me. I wanted to do it in my grandfather’s memory,” Celedon said.

After being accepted into the program, Celedon took a job with a subcontracting company called Alpha Elite here in town to help get by. One day while at work, she lost sensation in her extremities and then throughout her body. “[I] lost sensation in my body, my hands went numb, my legs. It started to spread to my head. Long story short, I was in the hospital for a week and they didn’t know what was wrong with me. They were doing a lot of tests and stuff but finally after three failed spinal taps, turns out I got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). It made me question, the doctors told me you need to stop the welding program and stop welding because that’s not going to help you with your health.”

Being diagnosed with MS was devastating for Celedon. “For me that was very upsetting. I had already done a complete 180, I pushed myself really hard to fulfill this degree and now a doctor is trying to tell me otherwise,” Celedon said.

Instead of giving in, Celedon decided she was going to use the doctor’s words as motivation. “I took the doctor’s advice and ran with it as they’re trying to tell me what not to do again, I’m gonna show them,” she said.

Celedon explained that despite facing a serious medical condition, and being told by numerous people that she would never make it as a welder, she is still determined to achieve her goal of becoming a professional welder.

When asked about potentially breaking ground in the welding program, she claimed she couldn’t be happier.

“I never really thought of it like I was breaking ground. Right now it feels amazing, I feel blessed to have this opportunity I want to be able to encourage others who have been told by the naysayers to continue to do what you’re doing,” she said.

Celedon believes that her story will be one people can look to as a source of motivation. “I think I’m put here to encourage others, especially women, who have always been told no, you’re a woman in a man’s field. I’ve always done best when people say not to, or don’t touch that, or leave it alone. I do it then because you said I couldn’t do it,” she said.

She hopes to inspire people to do what makes them happy, and not worry about what others think or say about you.

“All I can say is don’t live for others, look deep down and figure what you’re passionate about. It’s up to us to keep that passion lit and ignited. Find that passion, whatever it is, and pursue it 110 percent because in life, you’re never gonna be happy unless you’re happy with yourself and doing something you love. For me, working with my hands is something I love,” Celedon said.