Local residents say ‘YES’ to welding futures

Published 12:02 am Friday, May 1, 2015

Derek Thames (left) and Patrick DeRamus Jr. pose for a picture inside of LBWCC’s Welding Department. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Derek Thames (left) and Patrick DeRamus Jr. pose for a picture inside of LBWCC’s Welding Department. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Patrick DeRamus Jr. and Derek Thames came to Ronda Ricks and the Youth Enrichment Services (YES) program from different paths, but the program changed both of their lives and encouraged them to put their best feet forward toward their futures.

The program is designed to serve eligible, out-of-school youth ages 17 to 21, who are disabled; of low income; pregnant or have children; have a record of minor offenses; are homeless and a variety of other circumstances, to help them gain their GED or become employable.

The program serves Coffee, Dale, Geneva and Covington counties and is funded through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs by the Workforce Investment Act.

Ricks said Thursday that the program not only offers GEDs, but students also have a high school diploma option.

“I got taken out of school in the fourth grade and was homeschooled from then until 2013,” DeRamus said. “My sister had went through the YES program a few years earlier, so I decided to give it a try and thanks to Mrs. Ricks and Mrs. (Brenda) Mooney, they helped me do some of the things that I didn’t think was possible.”

Thames came down a different path to get to the YES program.

“Well, my daddy died when I was 8, and after that I started getting into a lot of trouble with robbery and drugs and quit school when I turned 16,” he said. “Then, I moved to Opp, met my fiancé and decided it was time to turn everything around so I started the YES program and Mrs. Ricks and Mrs. Mooney helped me a lot.”

Thames said he knew a lot of the material, but Ricks and Mooney helped him.

“It showed me I could do the things that I had missed out on,” he said.

Both decided to pursue a career in welding, knowing it would provide them a method to make a good living.

They will graduate from LBWCC this month.

“The program helped me get into college for welding, which I am now about to graduate from,” DeRamus said. “They helped me be a better person and have a successful life when I get out of college.”

Thames said he decided he wanted to weld as a career because it was good money and had good retirement.

“Now I am planning on taking that knowledge offshore for the remainder of my youth until I do retire,” he said.

DeRamus said the YES program helped him be a better person and will help him lead a successful Iife after graduation.

He also plans to go offshore.

Offshore welder salaries vary with experience, but can range from $42,000 to $66,000 a year. Offshore underwater welders have the potential to make much more, with a salary range of $80,000 to $200,000 a year.

“I plan to have a great career and future,” he said. “Thanks to Mrs. Ronda Ricks and Mrs. Brenda Mooney from the YES Program, Mr. David Brawner and Mr. Scott Cooper from LBWCC welding and my family and friends, I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the YES program can call Ricks at 881-2312 or Mandy Waters at the career center at 393-3783.