LEWISTON – There’s a new first at Lewiston Regional Technical Center.
The first female student has just scored her American Welding Society certification in the welding program, no easy task.
The high school senior is also a cheerleader.
Senior Cassandra “Cassie” Regner is also co-captain of the cheering team, which won its fourth consecutive Eastern Maine Class A championship Jan. 25. They compete on Feb. 8 for the state title.
“It’s been an awesome year,” Regner said. “I’m more than grateful.”
Getting her welding certification “is the gold standard for welders in terms of achievement,” LRTC Director Rob Callahan said. “It means she has completed not only the course work, she’s also produced a welding test which met all of the visual and structural requirements.”
Regner started cheering at age 4.
“It’s my passion,” she said. She tried out for varsity as a freshman and made it. During her time on the team it has won the states each year, “and two New England titles. My team feels like my family.”
People are surprised to learn Regner is both a welder and cheerleader, she said. She takes it in stride.
Cheerleaders aren’t “ditzy, fru fru or girlie,” she said. “I’m the opposite of that. It shows that, yes, you can be a cheerleader and still work in a male-dominated career.”
She considered welding as a sophomore after a friend in the program recommended it. She applied and was accepted; only about half of those who apply are accepted. Because of a lack of space, the program accepts 14 students a year from six schools.
“I have to turn about a dozen away,” welding instructor Robert Stewart said.
The first time Regner put on the big welding mask and protective gear, she said, “I was scared and nervous. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Welding, which uses intense heat to fuse metals together with a filler material, is intimidating at first, instructor Stewart said. After a day or two Regner said she felt more comfortable welding. Now, “I like everything about it. I find it so fascinating. It’s really cool how everything works together.”
A good amount of science is involved. Welders need to know what kind of gasses are involved and what amount of heat is needed for certain metals and certain jobs.
The field is dominated by men, but it doesn’t need to be that way, Stewart said.
Females are among the best welders, he said. “Look at their handwriting, their dexterity,” he said.
He has 28 students, three are female. “They do not have an ego,” he said. “They compete against themselves, not others.”
In class, Regner “is not a cheerleader. She’s one of the group. She’s a worker.”
She said she is looking forward to good pay in a career that’s hiring. “If you’re not afraid to get a little dirt under your nails, it’s not hard,” Regner said.
Seven other LRTC seniors got their certification along with Regner.
“She was the best visual” welder, Stewart said, explaining her welding was flawless. That meant she won a new “hood,” or helmet, on display in the hall, and earned a spot to compete in Skills USA in March.
There is one issue: The New England cheering competition also is in March.
“I was kidding with Bob Stewart saying, ‘Have you ever had a welding student tell you they can’t go to Skills USA because of a cheering conflict?’” Callahan asked.
Even if both contests happen in the same week, Regner thinks she can participate in each. The welding competition will be on a Thursday and Friday in Bangor; the cheering contest is on a Saturday in Massachusetts.
After she graduates from Lewiston High this June, Regner said she’s not sure what she’ll do. She may go to college, a technical school or seek an internship.
Regner, 17, plans to put her welding certificate to use by getting a job in August, after her birthday.
“You have to be 18,” she said.