TUPELO • Madison Martin, a 2021 Tupelo High School graduate, will spend the next few weeks as an intern for Precision Machine and Metal Fabrication welding an aluminum statue of a saluting soldier for the Tippah County Veterans Memorial in Ripley.
Martin, 18, joined the welding program at Tupelo's Career-Technical Center during her tenth grade year and completed the two-year program at the end of her 11th grade year.
Her interest in welding began during a Tek2Go advanced manufacturing camp at Itawamba Community College (ICC) years ago, and she decided to give the welding program a try when she got to high school.
Martin completed her National Center for Construction Education & Research certification during high school and started her internship with Precision Machine in mid-April.
Jayme McIntosh, Tupelo High School's welding instructor, said having a student earn an internship and pursue welding as a career is "an outstanding reward" as a teacher.
"She was always determined to get it," McIntosh said. "That’s one of the things that has propelled her to the point she’s at now."
For the first few weeks of her internship, Martin worked in computer numerical control (CNC) machining with the company before starting on the 20-foot tall soldier statue in mid-May.
"I honestly feel like it's an honor to be a part of something like this," Martin said. "Especially at my age, doing what I'm doing is a big honor and opportunity."
Martin's internship is part of the Gateway apprenticeship program, which is a partnership between the Tupelo Career-Technical Center and the Three Rivers Planning & Development District. Students who participate in the program are paid $8.50 per hour during their 80-hour internships.
Kim Hudson, Tupelo High School's Gateway in-school coordinator, said she's noticed that when Martin pursues a goal, she gives it her all.
"When she wants something, she's going to go for it and she's going to do it," Hudson said.
"It's just an impressive deal to be part of a memorial that's going to the veterans," Gabe Boykin, general manager for Precision Machine, said. "And then with this intern being able to weld on it, I think it promotes Tupelo High School's vocational school."
Martin is a female in a male-dominated profession. She was one of only two women in her welding class at Tupelo High.
In fact, only about 6% of welders in the United States are women, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
"For me to be involved in a male-dominant trade, it's fun and kind of a point proven," Martin said. "Some people, they're like 'Why are you doing this?' and I'm like 'Because I want to.'"
McIntosh said fear was never a factor for Martin.
"She wasn’t intimidated at all," McIntosh said. "And she was willing to let us nurture her in the way she needed to be nurtured in order to advance to the level that she is now."
Her story has come full circle, with Martin being accepted into the one-year welding program at ICC's Belden Campus this fall after having first found an interest in the trade at a camp there.
Although she got into welding on a whim, she now plans to make a career of it.
Martin hopes to become a pipeline welder so that she'll have the opportunity to travel the world while working on projects.