Faces of CNM: Alyssa Copeland

Alyssa won the gold medal in Welding Sculpture at the SkillsUSA New Mexico Competition and is now headed to Atlanta to compete on the national stage
April 27, 2022

When Alyssa Copeland enrolled at CNM last year, she knew she wanted to go into the trades because she likes working with her hands and doing things that are unexpected. But even she never could have imagined that within just a few short months, she would become a state championship-winning welder.

“I actually had a hard time choosing between being an electrician, an HVAC technician, or a welder,” Alyssa says. “I decided to try welding first, and it just so happens that I’m really good at it.”

Earlier this month, Alyssa participated in the 2022 SkillsUSA New Mexico Competition alongside hundreds of other career and technical education (CTE) students from around the state. The competition is an opportunity for students to show off their skills in categories ranging from welding to mobile robotics technology, as well as gain valuable networking experience with industry professionals.

“I feel like being in the competition made me a better welder,” Alyssa says. “I was able to learn so much more in a much shorter amount of time than I ever could just by going to class.” 

Alyssa’s statue of a dinosaur won gold in the Welding Sculpture category. Now, she’ll be representing CNM and New Mexico on the national stage at the SkillsUSA National Competition this summer in Atlanta. The win was especially gratifying for Alyssa, who was the only female student from CNM to compete in this year’s event.  

Photo of Alyssa's dinosaur sculpture“It’s always fun proving the guys wrong,” Alyssa says. “Just because I do my makeup and my hair, and I have long nails and a pink toolbox, doesn’t mean I can’t be a serious welder.”

However, Alyssa says she never could have made it this far if it wasn’t for the support of her instructors. In fact, she credits CNM faculty member Chris Martinez with encouraging her to participate in the SkillsUSA New Mexico Competition in the first place.

“My instructors have been my biggest supporters. They’ve believed in me since day one,” Alyssa says. “It’s actually going to be very hard to leave CNM because I enjoy being in the program so much.”

Alyssa is on track to graduate with her associate degree in Welding next spring. After that, she plans on becoming a professional TIG (tungsten inert gas) welder and might even continue making sculpture art on the side.  

“The process of welding almost feels like meditation to me,” Alyssa says. “I like that I get to work with my hands while doing something creative, and hopefully have an impact on my community with what I’m making.”

Alyssa says that if she can do it, anyone can. She encourages anyone who might be interested in learning a trade to sign up for a class and try it out.

“A year ago I was working in retail and I started to think that was all my life was ever going to be,” Alyssa says. “But then I came to CNM and I ended up finding something that I really enjoy. I’m not even the same person that I was six months ago.”

Learn more about CNM’s Welding program here.