Fort Ripley twins start their classes in welding and teaching

Jennifer and Shantel Koering have big plans for their futures

By Tina Snell, Staff Writer

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Shantel and Jennifer Koering, Fort Ripley, 18-year-old twins, are taking classes at Central Lakes College (CLC) in Brainerd. Jennifer, a four-year assistant dairy ambassador, is taking welding courses but is hoping for a future as an automotive and diesel technician.

Shantel, a Crow Wing County senior dairy princess for two years, a dairy ambassador for two years and an officer with FFA, is also taking work study in welding, but her major is working toward a degree in agriculture instruction.

Jennifer Koering, left, and her twin sister Shantel are attending Central Lakes College in Brainerd for welding and teaching, respectively.

“Our father welds aluminum molds for rotational plastics companies,” said Jennifer. “The family also races cars on ice and as the eldest of four girls, I have grown up with taking apart cars. Both of the fields come easy for me.”

Jennifer said that welding is an art form. It is forming one piece of metal from two or more separate pieces.

“People think it’s easy, but it isn’t,” she said. “It’s very technical and not many people know how to do it flawlessly. It’s also a male-dominated field that I’m breaking into.”

Shantel said that during World War II, women became welders for the war effort, only because there was a shortage of men. But before that time, and after, there have been very few women in the field.

“I had an uncle who would kiddingly tell us that girls can’t do this or that,” said Jennifer. “It pushed us to get more involved with all sorts of male-dominated fields.”

Jennifer said that her welding teacher, Mike Reeser, told her that girls have smaller and steadier hands, making them better candidates for the welding industry. He also told her that girls pay better attention in class.

Shantel, who has learned welding through Jennifer, is working toward an education degree in agriculture.

“I have always been shy. It was the American Dairy Association (ADA) that got me to come out of my shell,” said Shantel. “My first year as a dairy ambassador, I was required to talk to groups. I had to leave my comfort zone. In my second year as an ambassador, my speaking improved considerably.”

During the following year, Shantel became a Crow Wing County dairy princess and had to speak even more.

“But, I was talking about the dairy business and farming, something I love,” she said.

The Koering family, while not living on a working farm themselves, live next door to their grandfather Leonard Koering’s organic farm. The children have always helped him with his animals and other work.

“And, our family has been involved in FFA for three generations,” said Shantel. “We bleed FFA.”

She said her knowledge of farming had tunnel vision when she first joined the Brainerd chapter. All she knew was her grandfather’s farm and the animals she had on her parents’ place.

“I learned so much more through the ADA and FFA,” Shantel said. “Then, as a senior, I became very excited about agriculture and loved to talk about it.”

Up to that point, Shantel had always wanted to be a large-animal vet. But, she was becoming aware of how much she loved to teach others about agriculture. Her career choice then changed to becoming an ag instructor.

“As a teacher, I could reach more people, speak face-to-face with my students and get my point across. Much better than my other choice: ag communications,” she said. “I will be able to tell if I made a connection.”

Jennifer will be running for FFA state office in April 2013. If she is not elected, she will attend school in Chicago, Ill., to become an automotive and diesel technician.