ST. GEORGE — One welder’s heart is ablaze after seeing fellow students struggle and even starve to afford tuition.
Rubi Kunsch, a welding student at Dixie Tech, raises funds for fellow students who struggle with the combined cost of tuition and living expenses, St. George, Utah, Nov. 7, 2023 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News
“I was worried about my financial struggles, then I learned about these kids living in their cars,” Rubi Kunsch said. “We had some kids that weren’t eating and instructors were helping them get food stamps and giving them gift cards to survive. Seeing all this, I had to do something to help.”
Kunsch is the offroad warrior behind Send it Nation, a brand she built herself from the ground up. She builds custom vehicles and races them in some of the world’s most rugged terrains, earning her a loyal following and consistent brand deals.
With a talent and love for welding, she decided to enroll in Dixie Technical College’s one-year welding program to become officially certified through the American Welding Association. Her goal is to use her credentials to teach others while continuing to empower women to take on careers that are often favored by men.
Kunsch said many of the students in the welding program are from small towns. Obtaining a welding certification provides a valuable skill that allows them to be self-sufficient. It also provides the financial means to leave their hometown for bigger opportunities, if they desire to do so.
“I want the kids to be able to focus on this program because it’s an awesome opportunity,” she said. “So they can go out and make something of themselves and contribute to the community and hopefully give back in ways that we’re trying to do here.”
However, funding can be tricky for trade schools under two years. Kunsch said financial aid opportunities are limited and students do not qualify for FASFA or other government assistance.
For the welding program, each student is in need of a welding kit — costs of which have previously been tied back into Pell Grants. That option is no longer available for students. She said some may be reimbursed for the costs, but only if additional funds are left over.
On top of the cost of school, classes are often held at odd times, such as Monday through Thursday from 12:45 to 6:15 p.m., which makes it difficult for many students to hold regular jobs.
At the time of enrollment, she herself had a big shift in her business and wasn’t sure how she was going to make her finances work. The thought of having to drop out of the program was heartbreaking.
Then she saw how the other students were living.
She found out some students were living in their cars. She watched one girl get so thin that an instructor asked if she was OK only to learn that she couldn’t afford to eat. Relating on a personal level, Kunsch said she also lived out of her car when she was their age. While working for what she has today has been an awesome journey she shares with others, she also knows that sometimes help is simply needed.
“I don’t like receiving help, and I know most people don’t,” she said. “But when you need it, especially, there’s no greater feeling of love.”
Unable to assist with her own money, she took to her Send it Nation platform for help. Her goal is to raise funds to provide full welding kits and has already started by providing welding helmets.
“The costs can be anywhere from $700 to $1,000 just for the helmet, depending on what you get,” she said. “That’s a lot of money for a young person or somebody that’s just trying to make ends meet.”
She initially started her mission by selling her own Send it and “Weld-hers” merchandise online. The proceeds of the T-shirt sales went directly to helping students of the Dixie Tech welding program. And as word spread, others wanted to get involved.
“I don’t have a lot of money to be giving it to people,” she said. “If I could, I would be Oprah. ‘You get a welding hood. You get a welding hood,’ But the support of the community and my followers and the companies I work with – people just wanted to help.”
In addition to the kits, she hopes to raise funds for food gift cards, which would be provided to teachers to hand out at their discretion.
Kunsch knows that not everyone can commit to a full-time welding program, so she is in the process of creating online and in-person welding workshops that will be held throughout the country. She plans to start those workshops next year.
Want to get involved? Visit their website. Donations can be accepted online and all merchandise purchased from the site goes toward welding scholarships. Follow @senditrubi on Instagram for more information or email Rubi Kunsch.
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