An 18-year-old dual-enrollment student at Georgia Northwestern Technical College is having a busy month.
Andrew Harrell will be getting an associate degree in Applied Technical Management and a diploma in Welding and Joining Technology — as well as his high school diploma from Rome High.
On top of that, he’s already racking up wins on regional and national level competitions.
Harrell is currently taking six college level courses at GNTC while also taking one virtual high school course. When he is not in the classroom or in the welding lab, he is on the road, competing and winning in welding competitions.
So far this year, Harrell has won $11,000 in scholarship money as well as a customized Lincoln Redface SA 200 welding machine.
“The welding machine is what I am most excited about,” he said. “I think that makes three or four machines I have at home.”
When he bought a flux core-welding machine at age 16, Harrell said, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in welding. He started his career path as a dual enrollment student, taking a mix of evening and night classes. Then, while classes were on hold in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harrell broke his back riding dirt bikes with his friends.
“That didn’t stop him,” GNTC Welding Instructor Clint Chadwick said. “When we began having limited labs during the summer, Andrew was in the welding booth working hard, despite his injury.”
For Harrell, the hardest part of dual enrollment was not his injury. It was learning to balance his high school and college classes as well as sports and extracurricular activities.
He took a break from baseball this year and focused on various welding competitions. He represented Rome High in the SkillsUSA Georgia competition and placed first. He will represent his high school post-graduation at the SkillsUSA national competition later this year.
“If he does well at nationals, he will have the chance to compete at the WorldSkills Competition,” Chadwick said.
After winning the gold medal at SkillsUSA Georgia, Harrell received an invitation to participate at an American Welding Society competition at Georgia Trade School in Acworth. He placed first there, winning a $1,000 scholarship that he applied to tuition costs.
Harrell also traveled to Flemingsburg, Kentucky, to compete against 123 welders from 17 states at the Kentucky Welding Institute. He placed first there, as well — winning a $10,000 scholarship to KWI and the custom welding machine. Since the scholarship is for KWI exclusively, Harrell is weighing his post-graduation options.
“I have to think about how I would support myself if I moved to Kentucky,” he said. “Everything besides tuition would be out-of-pocket and I don’t know if I am ready for that yet.”
In the meantime, Harrell is working toward a job at Mullins Mechanical & Welding LLC in Carrollton.
“I know someone who works there and it just feels right,” he said.
According to Chadwick, Harrell worked hard to make sure he had everything wrapped up this spring.
“He is ultimately in the position he is in because of his work ethic,” the instructor said.