Greensburg Salem grads honored for work at Export plant; student firefighter praised for rescue effort

Mar. 12—Two recent Greensburg Salem High School graduates have been recognized for their work at a local manufacturing company, prompting additional plaudits from the school board.

The board also praised a high school senior who, as a member of the Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department, helped rescue a victim of a Jan. 6 house fire.

Wayne Clark recently was named Apprentice of the Year by the Pittsburgh chapter of the German American Chamber of Commerce for his job performance at Leybold, a German-owned company in Export that manufactures vacuum pumps.

Alyssa Yeckel, a fellow 2020 Greensburg Salem graduate and a co-worker at the firm, was an additional nominee for the apprentice award.

"Without this opportunity, I don't know where I would be," Yeckel said after the pair received certificates of recognition at the March school board meeting.

"It really changed the trajectory of my life," she said, adding that her family's financial means were limited after her father died during her senior year in high school.

Greensburg Salem began in 2019 to participate in a German American Chamber program that offers pre-

apprenticeships to high school seniors with the chance for advancement to a full apprenticeship and, potentially, full employment with an area German-owned company.

Students who successfully complete the pre-apprenticeship, including a final semester at the workplace, earn certification through The Manufacturing Institute, according to Greensburg Salem Superintendent Ken Bissell. They also get a chance to interview for a full paid apprenticeship, which includes financial support for initial college tuition and books, he said.

"Thank you for being the trailblazers," Bissell told the two recent graduates. "We're happy for both of you."

Both now have full-time jobs at Leybold.

Yeckel works as an order management coordinator, Clark as an inside sales technical associate.

Clark was recognized by the chamber for "extraordinary abilities both inside and outside the classroom" during his apprenticeship.

The program "changed where I ended up," said Clark. He noted that he has work experience "probably 95% of people my age don't get." He pointed out that experience will give him a leg up in the job market compared to others receiving a college degree.

He said he devotes free time to studying Leybold product manuals so he can be ready to answer questions for the company's variety of customers.

Those products, he said, can be used for anything from "leak testing on small medical devices that are implanted in patients up to NASA research on how certain things operate in space."

Bissell said district staffers have worked to grow the pre-apprentice program, which now has seniors placed at additional companies including General Carbide in Hempfield.

Students can be placed in sales, manufacturing or engineering positions, Bissell said. He indicated that the district hopes to add health care services to that list.

"We have districts from across the state asking us, 'How do we replicate this?'" he said.

Recognized for

rescuing fire victim

The school board also recognized senior Colten Houser, a young Greensburg firefighter credited with helping to pull a neighboring man to safety from his burning home in the 600 block of Jack Street in Greensburg.

Houser was headed home from his fire station when he spotted smoke and flames coming from the house. He notified county emergency dispatchers by radio.

Alerted by a neighbor that the homeowner was still inside, Houser donned his firefighting gear and worked with two city police officers to pull the man to safety, Bissell said.

"Colten continued to make a knock on the fire with his captain," Bissell said. "He had just completed his live burn training class, and this was his first opportunity to use his training."

City council and Greensburg Fire Chief Tom Bell also have recognized the rescue effort by Houser, fellow firefighter Brett Steele and the two police officers, Jonathan Murphy and Adam Gogets.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff by email at or via Twitter .