Orange County

Metallica scholarship program helps Valencia College welding student find her spark

ORLANDO, Fla. — From scraps of metal, just a few sparks can make a masterpiece - all through welding.

A Valencia College student, Emma-Lynn Ponds, is building so much more than just a career through the art of welding.

“It is a man-dominated world. I’m not going to lie about that,” Ponds said.

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Her skilled trade of welding is also an art.

“You can make something beautiful out of nothing,” she said.

In Valencia College’s welding program, there are 24 students. Traditionally, most have been men. But then a year ago, Ponds walked into this shop.

She saw the sparks and realized she was going to join the program.

Her journey, however, was sparked by something else.

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“The whole reason I’m doing this is because I wanna be the first in my family to break the cycle of poverty,” she said. “My whole life, three generations, we’ve been struggling. We lived with family friends for a little bit, staying on their couches and stuff. It didn’t work out. We ended up being homeless living in our car for a while after that.”

Pieces of a tough life came together as motivation and soon would bond with opportunity.

“They told us that Metallica, the All Within My Hands foundation, was going to be donating a hundred thousand dollars to help train the workforce in Central Florida,” she said.

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The band Metallica partnered last year with Valencia to award scholarships, and Ponds earned one.

It’s all building her to who she is today. The first in her family to get a degree.

After Ponds graduates and starts working professionally as a welder, she wants to go on to get a psychology degree so that she can work with veterans, using welding as a form of art therapy.