Frankfort Face: She makes sparks fly

By Katheran Wasson Published:

The 17-year-old Western Hills High School senior welds, cuts and bends metal alongside the boys at Franklin County Career and Technical Center. She spends four hours a day in tan Carhartt overalls and a T-shirt, safety goggles propped on her blonde head.

“Most of the guys kind of look at me as mama,” she said, sitting in the workshop before winter break.

“If something needs to be done, they know that I’m going to be on them to do it.”

Lyndsi has known since freshman year that she wanted to make a career out of welding.

After graduation, she and five of her classmates will head to Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville, Fla., to study the craft.

She hopes to eventually become an inspector, checking the welds on bridges, power plants and pipes to make sure they are secure.

 “My mind’s set on what I want to do.

“Most parents, I guess you could say they have to baby sit their kids and push them to go further. But the stuff I’ve been through in my life, I just know I want a better life than what I’ve had.”

Lyndsi picked up her first torch when she was just 13.

Her father, Trevor Tingle, was building a truck for mudding. He cut 2 feet out of a full-sized frame, but was too busy to weld it back together. So he asked his daughter to do it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy, and dad knows how I am,” she said.

“I was nervous, just because I’d never done it before, and this was obviously welds that had to hold up.”

They haven’t broken yet, she says proudly.

“I’d never done it before in my life, and he said I actually made a good weld for my first time,” she said. “I figured I should take that further.”

She put welding on her class schedule later that year. Walking through the door as a freshman, she knew it was the place for her.

“A business class or something like that just isn’t me. I’m more of a hands on person, and just coming in here, it felt like home.”

Her hobbies, scrap booking and photography, are similarly hands on.

Welding teacher Randy Shewmaker praised Lyndsi for her work ethic and motivation. She’s competitive and doesn’t like to be second to anyone, he said.

But she isn’t hotheaded – it’s her patience and attention to detail that makes her so successful, he said.

“She’s going to go out there, and she’ll be one of those successes that we get to sit back and say ‘There’s the difference that we make.’”

Lyndsi is the only female senior studying welding, but she says the class is becoming more popular among younger students. She works to recruit more girls through mentoring, and she’s filming a promotional video for the program.

“Everyone says that girls make better welders because they have steady hands, and hand-eye coordination,” she said.

“If you compare a guy’s handwriting to a girl’s, the guy’s looks like chicken scratch.”

It was living up to that expectation that intimidated Lyndsi – not competing against the guys.

“It’s a male-dominated world, but a woman can come in here and strive and it doesn’t matter,” Shewmaker said. “If you want to be a good welder, if you work hard, you’re going to get it.”

Lyndsi says she works hard to weld better than her male classmates. A few weeks ago, the class took a certification test that required cutting pieces out of plates and bending them 180 degrees.

“All the guys failed it, and I was the only one who passed it,” she said, smiling. “So that excited me a lot.”

Shewmaker said the other kids cut their metal too short, ground it too thin, or didn’t set up their machines right.

“She went through every step, and she passed,” he said.

“Women are more into the details than men are. We’re cavemen – we want to start the project quick, and we want to finish it.”

Her classmates slowed down and passed on the second try, she said.

 “The guys, they rush things to try and get it done,” she said. “But me, I take my time more and try it get it right the first time.”

Lyndsi went to her first welding contest this year, placing fourth behind three of her classmates. She was the only girl at the competition, and she felt hostility from the dozens of guys she beat – they didn’t like that she took home a trophy.

“I could just tell by the looks on their faces,” she said.

She plans to attend several more competitions this year to “make the most” of her senior year.

“I think anybody, even other instructors, when they walk into a competition and they see a cute little 4-foot-nothing, blonde-haired girl, batting her eyes, then she goes in and kicks their butt in welding, they’re like ‘woah, woah, woah,’” Shewmaker said, laughing.

Lyndsi will graduate from WHHS in May and head to Florida for welding school. Five of her classmates and best friends will go with her: T.C. Clay, Kyle Shupert, Evan Sandlin, Greg Frye and Shawn Tracy.

The six students are headed to the school in February to compete for scholarships – they’re working to raise money now for the trip.

She considered local schools like Bluegrass Community and Technical College, but changed her mind. She wants to focus on welding, not the general education credits that won’t help her in her chosen career.

“We all talked about it, and we decided it would be more of an experience to go somewhere farther away,” she said.

“Now that I’m going with my friends, it will be that much easier because I’ll have someone there I know.”

The hardest part of graduation will be leaving behind Shewmaker, who she says is “like a dad” to her.

“He’s my teacher, and he’s also my friend,” she said. “I know if I’m having trouble with something, I can go to him and he’ll help me, whether it’s welding or whether it’s home life.”

Lyndsi is excited about a career in welding inspection because it’s a secure field that can take her around the world checking construction projects.

“Welding, all the power plants and pipes have to be inspected and redone, and I know that I’m guaranteed a job when I get out of college,” she said.

And as many high schoolers head to college with undeclared majors, she’s heading into a career she’s passionate about.

“Ever since she came to me her first year, she had her mind made up what she wanted to end up doing,” Shewmaker said.

“Just because she’s a girl, she doesn’t care to go up against the boys.”

“Frankfort Faces” is a series that highlights people from within the Frankfort and Franklin County community. Each feature follows one of the city’s most unique personalities and includes a story, photos and video, which can be found by clicking the TV icon attached to the story online at state-journal.com.

 

 

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