Tony Denson Jr. found his career path early in life, and his instructor at the Paducah Area Technical Center has influenced him to follow that path. His collision repair instructor, Tony Denson Sr., is also his father.
Denson Jr. is this week's Associated General Contractors of Western Kentucky Area Technical Center Student of the Week.
Denson is a senior homeschool student through Penn Foster and takes courses at the Paducah Area Technical Center. Now in his second year in the collision repair program there, he said that he had done some of the work at home before choosing the course.
"I've done it in the past," he said. "I've worked at home with my dad in the body shop, and I really liked it. I wanted to see if I wanted to do that for a living, so I took the course."
In his first year in the program, Denson placed third in the state SkillsUSA competition in paint refinishing after winning the regional competition.
"I like working in the shop and painting," he said. "I like airbrushing and coming up with ideas to airbrush."
With a number of certifications under his belt, Denson wants to attend West Kentucky Community and Technical College and gain more certification and experience before beginning his career.
"I'm going to take business courses and use my two free years at West Kentucky so I can start my own business at home," he said.
The Community Scholarship Program at WKCTC provides scholarship funding for students in participating Paducah or McCracken County high schools for up to 60 credit hours toward a technical certification or an associate degree, something Denson is taking advantage of to get his career moving forward early.
Denson already has Automotive Service Excellence certification in painting and refinishing, nonstructural and structural repair and mechanical and electrical repair. He is working on gaining certification through the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, or I-CAR. His career goal is to work in body shop and engine repair.
Denson said having his father as his instructor at the area technical center is almost like the instruction he received from him growing up.
"Being able to have the opportunity to work in a body shop when I was little was a big help," he said. "He's also helped me working with my truck."
"He's worked at home with me quite a bit," said Denson Sr. "I told him ... 'I can teach you this at home,' and he said, 'No, I want this; I want my certifications.'"
"At home, he doesn't necessarily get to do the things he does here (at the area technical center). He's been able to come in here and do a lot of different stuff that he wouldn't necessarily be able to ... at home, and he's really come a long way. ... I'm proud of him as a teacher, and I'm proud of him as a father."
Denson Jr. works at Finish Line Car Wash in Paducah and still does some body work at home. When he has spare time, he enjoys hunting, fishing and being outdoors.
Denson is the son of Tony and Suzy Denson of Paducah.
The Paducah Area Technical Center is on the campus of Paducah Tilghman High School and services students from Paducah Tilghman, McCracken County, St. Mary, Graves County and Livingston Central high schools. Starting this fall, the Paducah Innovation Hub will house the classes held at the Paducah ATC with more career options, including engineering, art and computer-aided design.
A story featuring the AGC of Western Kentucky Technical Center Student of the Week will run in The Paducah Sun each Friday through March 27 with recipients chosen by instructors and administrators at the seven area technical centers that serve students in the state's 13 westernmost counties.
In addition to the Paducah Area Technical Center, this year's 29 AGC of Western Kentucky Technical Center Students of the Week are chosen from the Ballard County Career and Technical Center, Caldwell Regional Career Center, Four Rivers Career Academy in Fulton County, Marshall County Technical Center, Mayfield-Graves County Area Technology Center and the Murray-Calloway County Area Technology Center.
At the area technical centers, students are learning skills in areas such as automotive technology, welding, carpentry, machine tool technology, electricity and industrial maintenance that will help them join the workforce upon graduation and help fill the need for skilled workers in the area.
A banquet will be held at 6 p.m. April 23 at Marshall County High School to honor the Technical Center Students of the Week and to name technical center and overall Students of the Year.