Education

She’s a Harley-riding student welder — because, why not?

A Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College student surprised even herself when she beat out other contestants in the state with her welding sculpture, an intricate three-rose and vase design — all made from steel.

Jackson County student Mary Majchrzak (pronounced mar-shack) said she wants to be an inspiration to other women in what’s normally a male-dominated profession.

“I’d let other females know that in the workforce or in school, don’t let anything get in your way, even if you’re the only woman there.”

She said she’s proud placing first in the state in the SkillsUSA competition, especially since it’s the first welding sculpture she’s ever made.

In June, she’ll compete at nationals against welding sculptors from across the country.

From Vermont to Mississippi

Majchrzak grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont. In 2013, she hopped on a Harley Davidson and drove all the way down to Ocean Springs.

She first majored in nursing and sign language at the college, but a fortuitous work experience led her to welding.

“I was working in a warehouse at the time and a lady there said she was going to school for welding. I thought that was kind of interesting, and I decided to check it out,” she said.

From the very first class, Majchrzak said she fell in love with welding, specifically the art of sculpture. Looking back to her life on the farm in Vermont, it made sense to her.

“I’m used to getting my hands dirty, having grown up on the farm. I grew up fishing, hunting and all that,” she said.

“I remember seeing someone welding some tractor equipment on the farm one day. I thought that was interesting,” she recalled.

The design process

During a visit to a flea market, Majchrzak ran into a metal smith and physicist whose work inspired her. She gained access to a specialized cutting machine that can cut and design patterns, which also helped with the contest submission.

Jason Brister, an MGCCC welding instructor, helped catch Majchrzak up to speed on the welding basics. He taught her the subtleties, like what kind of metal to use, how to get different colors from stainless or carbon steel, and how to pick out what metal to use.

Britch takes great pride in the college’s welding instruction. But when it comes to Majchrzak, he says she’s a natural.

“She took to it very well, very quickly. And it’s obvious she put a lot of time into the submission,” he said.

Better welders?

Majchrzak was the only female in the class for a long while.

There was one girl on the first day of class, but she didn’t return, Majchrzak said. Another has joined the class since.

Brister said that while he sees more men than women in his classes, but that’s been changing over the years.

He pointed to the emergence of female welders during World War II as an example of their ability and skill. During the war, women across the country worked in factories to help with the war efforts.

Brister said he thinks women tend to be better welders because they take their time.

“I think they do a better job with overall quality. They’re more likely to not make the little mistakes,” he said.

Idea for sculpture

The decision to enter the contest was sort of last-minute, Majchrzak recalled. As president of the SkillsUSA club, she was troubled to see no student entries.

“I started to discover that no one was planning to enter anything from our campus,” she said.

“I just knew that couldn’t happen and so I decided to do something about it. I’m glad I did,” she said.

Majchrzak said she completed her sculpture project, which also included the creation of a scrapbook detailing the design process, just before the deadline.

She will travel by Harley to Lexington, Kentucky, for the national competition in June.

“I believe in living life to the fullest. If my story can motivate someone else, then why not?”

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