FENNIMORE, Wis. — When Eliora Klar walked into classes for the electrical power distribution program at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, she didn’t see anyone else who looked like her.
“There are no girls in the program,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was walking into, but it’s been really enjoyable, and everyone has been super encouraging. I know there have been girls that signed up for the program, but there’s never been any that stuck the entire thing out.”
On Saturday, May 21, Klar, 21, of Lancaster, is the first woman to graduate from Southwest Tech’s electrical power distribution program, which has been in place for 12 years.
She said the program teaches students how to maintain overhead and underground electrical distribution systems, including telephone poles.
Klar said she had been working seasonal jobs in Colorado after her high school graduation when she learned about the program.
“In the past, I worked at a high ropes course, and I taught rock climbing lessons,” she said. “This involved kind of high heights and working with my hands. It seemed like a good fit.”
During the course of the one-year program, Klar enjoyed the work both in and out of the classroom. She added that she likes the idea of a job in which she will do something different every day at various locations.
“You never really know where the day is going to go,” she said. “You could be called out in the middle of the night. There’s an aspect of surprise and adventure.”
Klar had a job lined up with MidAmerican Energy after graduation. She serves the area of Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa.
Joe Randall, lead electrical power distribution instructor at Southwest Tech, said Klar has been one of the best students he has taught in his seven years at the Fennimore school.
“I have no doubts whatsoever that she’s going to achieve a great deal of her goals and reach success,” he said.
Randall also said he hopes more women will join the program.
“I’ve been working in the field a long time, and there’s no reason to think it should be just male,” he said. “… (Klar) is really paving the way for this.”
Klar said she hopes more women will consider a field such as energy power distribution after hearing her story.
“In the future, if there are any girls who think they can’t do it, the instructors can say, ‘There’s already been a girl that’s done it. You can do it, too,’” she said.
Kayli Reese writes for the Telegraph Herald.