MORENCI — There was plenty to celebrate in Morenci last week as graduates from the Career Technical Education District program signed their contracts with Freeport-McMoRan.

Taking place at Morenci High School, the MHS Alumni Career Signing Day had representatives from the Gila Institute For Technology program, Freeport-McMoRan and Morenci High School on hand to congratulate six young men who completed the program as electrical apprentices.

Tanner Hudman, Luke Berube and Jonathan Merino were hired by Freeport when they completed the C-TED program in May. Dalton Lujan, Angel Rojas and Esai Vanegas previously completed the GIFT program and attended Eastern Arizona College, where they received their electrical and instrumentation Associate of Applied Science degrees.

Freeport announced the recent hires will report to work in September.

“We started this program years ago with the idea that we’d create opportunities for students at Morenci High School and also address a need that FMI had,” MHS Principal Bryan Boling said at the Career Signing Day ceremony.

“We believed at some point the program would be mutually beneficial for both MHS and FMI, and that was kind of the goal. I think it’s safe to say that has come to fruition today.”

“There’s a pretty big gap in our industry today between tradesfolk and partnerships like these that really make it possible to bridge that gap,” said Stacey Koon, Freeport general manager-administration at Morenci. “We proactively need to fill this need, and this is one great program that helps us fill that.”

“We definitely want to thank the young men. We’re thankful for what they’ve done,” said Troy Thygerson, GIFT superintendent. “Morenci joined the GIFT program in 2011. Sherry Carbajal is the Morenci GIFT representative from this area. It’s available for juniors and seniors.

“We strongly believe this program provides a competitive advantage for our students earning college credits while learning skills for the real world.”

MUSD Superintendent Dr. David Woodall echoed those sentiments.

“It is exciting to see the results of our unique partnership. This is a great example of working together to create career opportunities for our students while filling a critical need in the work force,” Woodall said.

More than fulfilling a need for workers, however, the program presents an opportunity in addition to providing valuable skills to young workers. It gives them the opportunity to keep working in their hometowns adding their considerable talents to the Greenlee County community.

“I’ve always wanted to live in Morenci and wanted to work for Freeport-McMoRan. The C-TED program got me where I am today, and I wouldn’t change a thing,” Hudman said.

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