Dad’s advice led to SCCC, corrosion tech job, academic success

Ty Dixon is one of two All-Kansas Academic Team honorees

When Ty Dixon graduated Rolla High School in 2017, the National Honor Society student hadn’t formed a clear plan for his future.

“Farming?” he recalls. “That’s what I was thinking about. I was going to study agronomy and become a crop consultant. I was kind of lost, honestly — after living in the moment as a high school student, playing basketball. Now I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do, just keep working as a farm hand all my life?’”

Dixon’s interest “kind of fizzled out” after he talked to people in his rural community, who counseled him to pursue a career that offered more stability.

Since childhood, Dixon had hoped to follow his father’s example — work in oil and gas, and run cattle — “but he always preached to me that he didn’t care what I did, as long as I got some schooling,” he said. Father and son had seen firsthand the toll that work in the oil patch could take on a person’s body, and how a person can “hit his pinnacle” in terms of advancement.

“He told me, ‘Don’t be that guy who can’t move up because you don’t have a degree,’” Dixon said. “I figured I better listen to his wisdom.”

Dixon enrolled in the corrosion tech program at SCCC and discovered something completely unexpected: Intellectual engagement.

“In high school, you don’t get to choose what you learn, and I was so bored,” Dixon said. “Teachers almost ruined reading for me, with the whole accelerated reading system and the points, and when I got here, for the first time in a long time, I was able to come to class, get technical knowledge, do something with my hands, see the outcomes … I love it.”

Ty Dixon“When I got here, for the first time in a long time, I was able to come to class, get technical knowledge, do something with my hands, see the outcomes … I love it.”

Corrosion Student and AKAT scholar Ty Dixon

Corrosion, he said, “is all a mystery. Mr. (Autry) Coleman, our instructor, can get us to that basic understanding of what’s happening, and then he challenges us to immerse ourselves. When he said we needed to take chemistry, I wasn’t so sure about that … but what I learned has helped me understand corrosion, and once I got the interest, I said, ‘I’m all in.’ It’s never boring. It’s a different set of circumstances every time.”

“When Ty started asking questions, and applying that curiosity, I knew he would do great in the field,” Coleman said. “You have to combine paying attention to the details with being open about what you might find. You have to be very intelligent.”

Two years later, Dixon has earned an associate’s degree and industry certifications as a corrosion technician, picking up an All Kansas Academic Team award along the way. Days after he completed his fall semester coursework at Seward County Community College, he reported to OneOK offices in Tulsa, Okla., to begin full-time work.A summer internship with SCCC’s industry partner had been so successful, the company recruited him before he’d even completed his studies.

“When I was there this summer, toward the end of it, they said, ‘Please don’t look for another job,’” Dixon said. Recounting the story, he still sounds pleased and surprised.

“The internship was a big learning experience,” he said. “I was surrounded by engineers, with all that wisdom. Basically, I tried to perform the tasks at hand and do what was expected of me, like my parents have always taught me.”

What that entailed, it turned out, was working in a cubicle — “I’d rather be outdoors,” Dixon admitted with a laugh — and creating a system for field workers to measure corrosion using a tool called “coupons,” compiling data, and looking at the results system-wide.

“They’re just setting up their internal corrosion group, because they’ve had a lot people who were pipeline operators having to come in and do corrosion tests,” Dixon said. As an Internal Corrosion Tech, he will travel every day to evaluate pipeline integrity in the field. It’s a job that won’t “wear out my body,” Dixon noted, and enables him to earn a good living.

“My dad was giving me a hard time and told me  ‘I might be a little mad, you’ll be making more money than me,’ but I know he and my mom are proud of me,” Dixon said.

The AKAT award, which involves a trip to Topeka, where Dixon will receive a medal from the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, is icing on the cake, he said, and his parents plan to attend.

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