Kayla Wesselmann (Hoyleton) is something of an anomaly. When she’s not prowling the back row of Waugh Gym as libero for Rend Lake College’s Lady Warriors Volleyball team, she’s turning up the heat in the classroom as a member of the RLC Welding Program.
Wesselmann’s interest in welding was sparked by helping her dad on the family farm in Clinton County.
“My dad started teaching me how to weld in my eighth grade year. I wanted to take the class in high school, but I wasn’t able too because I was missing a class that I needed. So, my dad really started teaching me,” she explained.
Her love of volleyball started a bit earlier. She first took the court in fourth grade, but growing up, she split her focus between several different sports. Later, as she attended Nashville Community High School in Nashville, Ill., she decided to make it her focus. In the offseason, she would travel with club teams to continue to improve and stay active.
Eventually, her interests crossed paths. As she considered the next step in her education, Wesselmann decided she wanted to officially study welding. She was strongly considering the RLC program as her next step. So, she was thrilled when she received a volleyball scholarship offer to come play for the Lady Warriors. It was the perfect opportunity to pursue both her passions.
“This has been a great experience. Honestly, it’s not too difficult to juggle school and volleyball. Pete [Welding Associate Professor James “Pete” Wilce] has been great about working around my volleyball schedule. So, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I do MIG and TIG welding; then I have Structural; and then I go to Blueprinting. Those classes run from 9 a.m. until I go to practice that evening. So, it works perfectly. Pete is a great teacher. He really helps me out when I need it,” she said.
Wesselmann is currently a freshman and plans to finish her Associate of Applied Science Degree. After school, she hopes to join the union in order to get some valuable work experience. Eventually, she hopes to travel to the coast and pursue underwater welding, but she said she’s not in a hurry to plan everything out.
“I like it here. I have a lot of friends. I’m just enjoying everything right now. I’m going to let things happen when they happen. I’m not worried about it,” she expressed.
On the athletics side, she is thankful for the opportunity to continue playing the sport she loves. Wesselmann joked that Lady Warriors Volleyball Head Coach Sara Crews was struck by the uniqueness of the situation, teasing that she has never had a welder on the team before.
“Most of my teammates aren’t quite as ‘country’ as I am, so they like to give me a hard time about the welding. It’s funny. It’s just something new and different. I don’t mind. I’ve got the boots and the jeans. I like to think that I wear the pants in the house.”
The volleyball court isn’t the only place Wesselmann has to deal with some badgering about her chosen field of study. She said that her male-dominated classes aren’t shy about giving her a hard time. But she proudly said she was just as quick to dish it back at them.
Wesselmann laughed when asked if she has become a better welder than her dad.
“Not by a long shot. But, I’ll get there someday.”
She still travels home when she can to help on the farm and get a few more welding pointers from her dad.
The Lady Warriors Volleyball team will be in action on Oct. 10 as they travel to Vincennes University for a 6 p.m. start.
To find out more information on RLC’s Welding Program, contact Wilce at 618-437-5321, ext. 1272.