11-year-old Bakersfield student finds passion in an unexpected pastime
Editor’s note: In the completely vocational summer school program for students in grades 6-8 operated by the Bakersfield R-IV School District, students’ time is split between agriculture, business and family and consumer sciences, says superintendent Amy Britt. During the agriculture portion of class, students learn to check the oil in a car, air up a tire, check tire pressure, change a tire and charge a vehicle’s battery. They learn the basics of shop safety and measurements, including cutting and welding, and they visit local farms to learn about greenhouses and growing plants and vegetables. During the business portion of classes, students learn the basics of budgeting and computer coding, complete a business project and visit area businesses. During the family and consumer sciences portion of classes, students learn basic meal safety, food preservation and sewing skill plus budgeting and planning, including shopping at an area farmers market to purchase produce and then canning and freezing the vegetables and fruit. “The kids really enjoy it,” Britt said. “They learn basic life skills that they can use as adults… it also gives kids an introduction to our vocational programs that are available to them when they are in high school.” In addition to the vocational middle school classes, an academic enrichment summer school is offered to students in kindergarten through fifth grade; high school students can also complete credit recovery if needed.
Thanks to the vocational summer school program for Bakersfield Middle School students, Ciara Watts, an 11-year-old sixth grader, has spent the last few months letting the sparks fly on her newest passion – welding.
Now operating her own business, Wild Child Welding, Ciara says she’s hooked.
She got her first taste of the new pastime with the help of Bakersfield vocational and agriculture teacher Troy Weisner during summer school classes in 2019.
“[Summer school] was vocational [last] year, so we learned a lot of different things,” Ciara said. “We learned how to cook, we learned about business, we learned how to change a tire and how to change the oil. We canned strawberry jam and sewed pillows. Then, during the last week, we did shop and FFA, and that’s when I decided I wanted to try to weld.”
Ciara joined her classmates in learning basic welding skills and applying them to her first ever project, a paper towel holder made from a steel rod and three horseshoes.
“After that, I nonstop, repeatedly asked Mom and Dad if I could have a welder and all the rest of the stuff I needed,” Ciara said. “I really wanted to do it.”
Ciara’s parents, Bakersfield VFD fire chief Greg Watts and wife Zaylor, embraced Ciara’s new passion for the skill.
“I was excited for her. I was glad she wanted to do something new,” Zaylor said. “So we found her an awesome little flux-wire welder and got it for her for an early birthday present sometime around July.”
Her parents also bought her a welding helmet, and Ciara got straight to work.
“I wanted to weld a lot – like a lot, lot,” Ciara said. “Right away, I kept asking, ‘Mom, Dad, can I weld? Can I please go out and weld?’” Ciara said. “Finally they found some scrap metal and got me started.”
Soon, Ciara was spending all her free time in the shop, honing her new welding skills and branching out to more elaborate projects.
“Of course, she doesn’t get to go out and do it by herself,” Zaylor said. “Either me or her dad have to be out there with her.”
Ciara found that, in order to weld well, a welder needs to practice a lot, and materials aren’t always cheap. She saved money she received as birthday and Christmas presents, and she also saved the “chore money” she earns by helping a neighbor with jobs around the farm. She’s used all her extra money to buy the materials she needs to keep welding.
“She’s had to save up all her own money to buy her supplies. She buys her horseshoes and her wire and everything else. The only thing we bought was the welder and the helmet. The rest is all her. She’s pretty hardcore about it,” Zaylor said.
With some practice under her belt, plus a little confidence, Ciara decided to start selling her projects to friends and family.
“I decided to do up a little business for me,” she said. And with that, Wild Child Welding was born.
“It’s because I’m wild,” Ciara said, referring to the business name. “…and my aunt Paige [Robinson] likes to call me that.”
Ciara now sells paper towel holders, napkin holders, Dutch oven lid holders and decorative Christmas trees, snowmen and crosses made from horseshoes. Ciara says she can also do custom orders. She’s also planning on learning how to make metal roses for family friends soon.
The funds she raises from selling her items goes back to buying materials for future projects.
To see the items Ciara has for sale and to follow along with her welding journey, search for “Wild-Child Welding by Ciara Watts” on Facebook. Customers can contact Ciara about orders and purchases at 417-284-7496 or 417-712-1890.