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2023 DHS Graduate Mikala Sposito Makes Sparks Fly 

When Mikala Sposito was twelve years old, her parents took her to a Maker Faire event at The Henry Ford Museum that offered hands-on crafting and building activities. At this particular event, she had the opportunity to try ‘virtual welding’ and was intrigued. After this small exposure, her mom researched welding classes in the area and found a camp in Jackson called “ShopRat,” where campers can try their hands at woodworking, machinery welding, and engineering. That experience ‘sealed the deal’ for Mikala.
 
A person welding.
“A lot of kids want to grow up and be a doctor or an astronaut, but no one I knew wanted to be a welder when they grew up,” Mikala says. “I liked that it was different.”
 
As soon as she entered her junior year at Dexter High School, Mikala began taking welding courses at the South & West Washtenaw Consortium (SWWC), which provides career-technical education to students enrolled at Chelsea, Dexter, Lincoln, Manchester, Milan, and Saline High Schools.
 
“I loved learning through SWWC,” Mikala shares. “I was very lucky to participate in this program because, not only did I have a really good time, I also gained so many skills and experiences that I would not have gotten had I waited until college.”
 
One of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the program for Mikala was the many competitions available to SWWC students, and she soon began distinguishing herself as a gifted high school welder. In her senior year, Mikala placed fourth in the Overall category of the American Welding Society (AWS) Competition, third in Overall at the Ferris State University Welding Competition, second in Overall at the Washtenaw Community College (WCC) Welding Invitational, and won first place in the TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) category at the Monroe Community College Competition. The Overall category in welding competitions is in many ways the toughest, as it combines multiple types of welding styles including Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW), and Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW). 
 
But, the most exciting accomplishment was her journey to a Top Twenty finish at the SkillsUSA National Competition in Atlanta, Georgia this past June. In February 2023, Mikala earned the first place spot in the Overall category at the regional SkillsUSA competition held at WCC, which paved her way to the Michigan state Skills USA competition. Subsequent hours and hours practicing in the lab paid off, as she again came in first place in the Overall category at the Grand Rapids state competition, earning a chance to compete at the National Competition. Heading to Atlanta in June, Mikala knew she was facing off against the best high school welders across the country, but she was prepared.
 
A young girl wearing a mortarboard with medals around her neck, walking in the woods.
“[At SWWC], I was surrounded by a good group of people who were also my main competition,” Mikala said, “so they always helped push me to be better.” Mikala also shared her thoughts about the national competition in a feature article with The Sun Times Newspaper in April 2023: “There are a lot more components to the national competition, so the practice does not stop as I will be doing a lot of new things to prepare. Time will also play a huge role in this competition, so I will be really working hard with a time limit and learning how to weld efficiently under pressure.” 
 
Her hard work and dedication to her craft resulted in an outstanding Top Twenty finish at the National Competition. This crowning achievement, coupled with her graduation from DHS, served as an extraordinary finale to her high school career. 
 
Mikala is now working toward her associate’s degree and welding certification at Washtenaw Community College, having received a scholarship from the American Welding Society for her outstanding competition performances. She is also working at the Saline aerospace company Leihberr, where she is welding heat exchangers for airplanes. 
 
Looking toward the future, Mikala says she is aiming to compete at the WorldSkills welding competition being held in Singapore in 2026, then finding a welding job that will allow her to travel and possibly switch to art-based welding, art being another long-time passion. But, a teaching position may also be in the cards.
 
“I’ve always thought about the idea of becoming a teacher,” Mikala shares. “As my skills develop and I become more accomplished in the welding field, I'd like to play a very important role in the lives of young students. As a female welding teacher, I would hope to be an inspiration to young women who are struggling to find out if something like this is for them. Learning under the influence of such a great teacher, I hope to one day have a similar impact.”
 
Two metal shark art pieces.

Metal sea creatures welded by Mikala

According to a 2021 article by NBCnews.com, women make up only 5% of the welding workforce. When asked about her experiences as a woman in a male-dominated field, Mikala says, “there have been comments here and there, such as being called “sweetheart” at a competition, but I have been very lucky to learn in an environment surrounded by nothing but support.” 
 
She recalls a competition when she was told ‘everything is going to be okay’ and she should ‘just stay calm’ by an instructor while she was merely waiting for her turn to weld. “Stuff like that makes me feel angry because they are only saying that because of my sex, but the way I handle those comments is through my skill.” 
 
“At the State competition, another school was making small comments about me while laughing, but I didn’t say anything back,” she says. “My teacher and I just went to sit somewhere else, and by the end of the day, I had placed first.” 
 
“I am very thankful that Dexter Schools participates in the Consortium program, and gave me the opportunity to learn what I wanted to pursue in high school rather than waiting until college,” Mikala says. “This program set me up for the most success I could achieve and I am so grateful.”
  • Career & Technical Education (CTE)
  • Content Knowledge
  • Dexter High School
  • South & West Washtenaw Consortium
  • careers
  • initiative