A vocational school graduate shows that overcoming poverty is complicated, but not impossible

WAVS Welding graduate Erickson Sanhá smiles as he shows off some of the 70 school desks that he and his fellow graduates were hired to build for a local school.

WAVS Welding graduate Erickson Sanhá smiles as he shows off some of the 70 school desks that he and his fellow graduates were hired to build for a local school.

After graduating from the WAVS Vocational School’s welding program, Erickson Sanhá was ready to set up his own shop.

But without start-up capital, how would he buy tools and supplies? And without a power grid in town, where would he get electricity and space to work? And without business experience, how would he know how to invoice his customers?

Overcoming poverty, it turns out, is complicated – but not impossible.

Erickson received a set of welding tools through the WAVS New Entrepreneurs Program after completing a one-year internship in the WAVS Vocational School’s welding department.

Erickson received a set of welding tools through the WAVS New Entrepreneurs Program after completing a one-year internship in the WAVS Vocational School’s welding department.

WAVS donors gave Erickson that opportunity. After completing the nine-month welding course, Erickson went on to work as an unpaid intern at the school. In return, the school rewarded him with a set of welding tools last year – just what he needed to strike out on his own.

Today, Erickson and two of his fellow graduates are growing their small welding business. Recently, they built 70 desks for a local school run by a church in town, which also provided them with a generator and workspace. They’re also finishing up a set of custom-made security bars for a client’s home – a job that will earn them about $200.

Erickson displays the security bars that he’s building for a client’s home.

Erickson displays the security bars that he’s building for a client’s home.

Erickson puts a lot of emphasis on quality.

“The most important thing is patience,” he said while showing off some of his work on a recent afternoon. “If you try to build something rapidly and throw it together, you’re going to ruin it. You need to have patience. That’s one thing they taught us at the WAVS School: patience. And how to put things together the right way.”

Erickson and his fellow graduates finish painting one of the 70 desks a local school hired them to build.

Erickson and his fellow graduates finish painting one of the 70 desks a local school hired them to build.

During his yearlong internship in the WAVS welding department, Erickson spent a lot of time working on projects for the school’s clients. The welding department takes on these projects for two reasons: To give students real-world, hands-on experience; and to generate revenue for the school so that it doesn’t need to rely on outside funding as much. Through his internship experience, Erickson learned how to invoice customers, track materials, and take on custom jobs. Those practical skills, along with the set of tools he received through the WAVS New Entrepreneurs Program, set him up for success.

“After my internship, which gave me even more experience in this type of work, I wasn’t afraid to take on any job,” Erickson said.

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