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The Amazing Grace

The Amazing Grace

As an inspiration to her peers and community, senior Grace Wittstrom leads with the work of her hands and the kindness in her heart

Fiery orange and yellow sparks fly intensely; her concentration is fierce as the molten metal begins to smooth. She is wearing a thick pair of worn-down gloves, and a large weathered Carhartt jacket. This girl is not messing around. Her posture is focused as she leans into her welds, and then a slight smile begins to form as she lifts up her helmet to examine her work. After countless hours of practice and years of training, she will now be adorned wit h the 2021 SkillsUSA State Champion title for welding.

Much like welding, senior Grace Wittstrom takes much of her academics and extracurriculars seriously, with hard work and intentionality, she always puts forth her greatest effort. In addition to her expertise in welding, she is also in the top 5 percent of her class with a 4.7 GPA placing her at rank 6, and the second-highest ranked girl. She has taken 23 honors/advanced placement/college prep courses. She has been President of SkillsUSA for the second year in a row, and she has earned her State FFA Degree.

“[Grace] is one of the hardest working students that I have seen during my time at Paso Robles High School,” said Agriculture Department Chair, Justin Pickard. “She balances academics, athletics, projects, AP, family, work and does a remarkable job at all.”

“[Grace] is one of the hardest working students that I have seen during my time at Paso Robles High School,” said Agriculture Department Chair, Justin Pickard. “She balances academics, athletics, projects, AP, family, work and does a remarkable job at all.”

Justin Pickard

Pickard has been teaching Wittstrom in the Agricultural Mechanics CTE Pathway since freshman year, when she first decided to enroll in the welding class.

“Since meeting Grace and her family, the biggest character trait that jumps out at me is her willingness to pick up something new and not just ‘try it out’ but completely dedicate herself to it,” Pickard said.

Wittstrom understood the importance of welding from her father and her grandfather using the skill in day-to-day life; but at the time, she didn’t realize how much creativity could be expressed and how much she would adopt the “learn by doing” philosophy.

“I knew welding was a really key thing to know and to have in your tool belt. Instead of having to take it to a machine shop,or something like that, my dad would be like, ‘okay, let’s pull out the welder. Let’s do this real quick. No big deal.’ It saves you a lot of time and money just to be able to do it yourself,” she said.

Though Wittstrom thoroughly enjoys the practicality of being able to weld, what she loves most about it is her ability to be creative and make something with her hands.

“I like the creativity. I have a hard time with attention to detail and keeping things consistent. But the idea that I can look at something or look at a table and be ‘like, oh, yeah, I could figure that out, I know how they built that,’ is really rewarding. Just being able to look at something, having an idea and knowing I have the capability of building it — It’s pretty special to know you can do something like that,” Wittstrom said.

As President of SkillsUSA, Wittstrom has many responsibilities which include communicating with the regional advisor and chapter advisor Randy Canaday, coordinating various events such as the Pioneer Day and Christmas Parade floats for SkillsUSA, pizza parties for hundreds of SkillsUSA members at the highschool, and also organizing meetings with students and parents. Most recently Wittstrom helped plan a sponsorship dinner for all the SkillsUSA sponsors. Her main responsibility is tying the organization to the student body, and getting students involved with SkillsUSA.

Canaday has known Wittstrom since her freshman year when she was a student in his drafting class, and he thinks very highly of his capable and deserving president.

“Meeting Grace as a freshman was the beginning of my admiration for a young lady who discovers what she wants to do, sets goals and completes all necessary to achieve her goals.  Since that time I have leaned on her ability to carry out tasks and find solutions involving other students.  Her involvement in SkillsUSA from her Freshman year through her Senior year Grace has excelled as a Welding Competitor.  At the same time she has excelled in all of her other classes, worked outside of school and exhibited strength of character.  Grace is a one in a million person who will excel in whatever she decides to be her goals,” Canaday said.

What Wittstrom enjoys most about SkillsUSA is the amount of students involved and how the skills they are able to learn from a career driven program will help them directly out of high school.

“It’s been really empowering to see students who weren’t academically driven to go out and start a business or be able to go out on a construction site and go help people or go make a little bit money on the weekends just doing stuff that they learned through school,” Wittstrom said.

In addition to welding and SkillsUSA, Wittstrom spends a lot of her time and energy towards her academics. With such academic rigor in her already impacted schedule it has been a challenge for her to maintain a her spot in the top 10 students in the class, but despite the struggle she has thrived.This year she has taken a course load of 6 AP/Honors or dual enrolled classes and will graduate with a 4.7 GPA.

“I’m really thankful that I did so much because it’s setting me up for success, but it’s  been hard, staying motivated. When it’s been go go go for four years, giving all I got, and then I’m looking ahead and I got another three years just to keep pushing,” she said. “I went into high school, not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. And let’s be honest, I still don’t know what I want to do. But I want to be able to give myself the best opportunity and I don’t want to cut myself short.”

Senior Faith Gaudi, a friend of Wittstrom’s since 6th grade, believes she is a Super Senior because “she is so involved and puts 100% effort into everything she does. And not only does she do well, but she also stays positive throughout all of it.”

One of Wittstrom’s greatest inspirations has been her aunt Heidi Wittstrom. Heidi is a local business woman, and entrepreneur who inspires Wittstrom to work hard and be kind no matter what life throws at you.

“Someone that inspires me, would probably be my aunt Heidi. She’s awesome. She’s just a super hard worker. I spend as much time as I can with her. She does construction and things like that and she always inspires me because she teaches me that it’s always important to be kind and hardworking. Y can always have fun and joke around but at the end of the day it’s kindness and your drive that makes your personality and sets up your whole life. So I try and follow in her footsteps and do the best I can,” Wittstrom said.

It has been evident to teachers and peers that Wittstrom lives her life wanting to be kind and hardworking.

Outside of school, Wittstrom spends a lot of time with her family, riding her horse Boss, roping, doing a little bit of welding, and working. She works in a mechanic shop in Shandon doing invoices and other accounts for them. She also sells and delivers hay through her family’s business Wittstrom Hay.

“Now I’m working in the office doing QuickBooks and things like that, which has been awesome because it’s taught me the technical stuff and given me some tools as a business owner of how my company needs to be run.  Driving around the county and seeing all the beautiful places and meeting new people has really shown me that I don’t want to be cooped up in a box every day as being an accountant or doing something like that.”

After high school Wittstrom will attend Utah State University in Logan, Utah. She will be majoring in Ag Systems Technology and Agribusiness. She fell in love with the campus and everything college has to offer.

“The town itself was gorgeous. It was kind of like Paso and it’s just tucked up in the mountains and really quaint, and it just felt like home,” Wittstrom said.

Gaudi knows well the charming soul moving to Utah.

“Grace is determined, joyful, and affable because she’s just such a kind bubbly person who is always pushing herself to succeed. She’s always had a huge personality and been great at conversing with people,” Gaudi said. “My first impression of her was that she was a super funny, happy, kind soul and we became good friends. Since the day I met her, she’s stayed her loving, optimistic self and I’m so proud of the beautiful woman she’s become.”

Faith gaudi
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