Whitfield County, GA welder to compete against best in nation


(Whitfield County, Georgia)  Wearing his American Flag bandana, 21-year-old Daniel Lopez looks up from his latest project on the Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) Whitfield Murray Campus (WMC) for a quick picture. But trying to sum up his life in a snapshot would be impossible. Although you wouldn’t call him your typical blue-collar worker, you may say Lopez already has a degree in hard work.

Of course, he comes by it honestly.

Daniel Lopez - Welding - SkillsUSA
“Whitfield Murray Campus welding technology student Daniel Lopez of Dalton, Georgia dons his American Flag bandana as he takes a look at a project being completed in the Georgia Northwestern Technical College Welding Technology lab. Lopez is part of a three-person welding fabrication team which has qualified to compete against some of the best young welders in the nation this summer.”

Less than two months from his trip to compete against some of the best welders in America at the National SkillsUSA competition in Louisville, Kentucky, the Dalton, Georgia native’s story starts more than 20 years ago when his parents moved from Mexico hoping for a great life in the states. It would be their first-born that would really help make their dreams a reality.

The oldest child of Maria and Dionisio Lopez, Daniel is the first person in his family to go to college. However, working a full-time job Friday through Sunday at Dalton, Georgia’s Tandus Centiva and then part-time hours with Rossville, Georgia’s Warrior Guitars, Lopez is truly putting his blue-collar roots and servant’s heart to work every day of the week.

“I am a lot like my parents. My mom does in-home care for special needs kids and my dad is a maintenance man. They have good hearts and just work hard,” proudly stated Lopez. “Twelve-hour shifts at the plant and working extra hours whenever they (Warrior Guitars) need is a lot. But I like it. It’s worth it.” Lopez is an hourly employee at Tandus Centiva and helps make guitar bodies for the Walker County, Georgia music business in his spare time.

Spare time is not something this Southeast Whitfield alum has a lot of these days, though. You can blame that on his success.

Lopez, along with fellow Dalton, Georgia resident Isaiah Jackson, and Ringgold, Georgia resident Jacob Hargrove are scheduled to travel to the SkillsUSA National Competition June 19-23. These three comprise the college’s Welding Fabrication team; the event in which they took home top honors on the state level in March to help them earn the national bid.

“This is the first GNTC welding team headed to the national level to have someone from the Whitfield Murray Campus,” said GNTC Welding Instructor Wayne Henderson. “Just knowing Daniel and his work ethic, it doesn’t surprise me that he’d be a part of something like this. He’s meant for something big.”

Before Lopez won a Georgia Northwestern Technical College Foundation scholarship to attend the WMC in 2014, he previously caught the eye of SkillsUSA judges while competing on the high school level down in Raider country. As a Southeast Whitfield High School competitor, Lopez placed second in the state in a woodworking category. “I love working with wood, too,” said Lopez. “First thing I ever made was a wooden trailer for a remote-controlled car I owned. I wanted it to have a trailer and I couldn’t find one anywhere that anyone sold. So, I made my own.”

Lopez is now building a career for himself as he anticipates completing his Welding Technology diploma by the end of 2017. With younger siblings still in school and looking up to him, Lopez has no plans on slowing down now. “I have my own dreams,” said Lopez. “I’m just glad I’m getting a chance to make them happen. Just thankful for getting the chance to compete this June. I just want to be able to show what I can do.”

SkillsUSA is a national, non-profit student organization that has developed more than 10 million workers through active partnerships between employers, educators, and industry leaders. SkillsUSA programs include local, state, and national competitions in which students demonstrate occupational and leadership skills. At the annual SkillsUSA National Championship, nearly 6,000 students compete in 100 occupational and leadership skill areas.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma, or a certificate in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 14,151 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,956 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 6,195 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start.  For more information about GNTC, visit us at GNTC.edu or contact a Student Help Center on any one of our six campus locations at 866-983-4682.  For information online, visit the college at GNTC.edu, as well as on GNTC’s Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, WordPress, and YouTube channels. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.