Utility line mechanics are very familiar with the idea of building something from the ground up. They set poles, place overhead power lines, and connect homes and businesses to the grid. But the latest class of graduates from Milwaukee Area Technical College’s (MATC) electrical power distribution (EPD) program did more than that. They also helped build a new campus from the ground up.

“It’s kind of surreal making it this far,” said Aidan Doonan, valedictorian of this year’s EPD class. “We were able to work with We Energies to really set up this program.”

Doonan and his five fellow graduates were the first students to complete coursework at MATC’s new Milwaukee facility — the result of a collaboration between the college, We Energies and the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM). In addition to providing financial support, We Energies dedicated a portion of its Metro North facility at 31st Street and North Avenue in Milwaukee for field instruction, and provided a trailer for classroom learning.

The new facility is an important step to increase accessibility and diversity. Before this year, the EPD program was only available at the college’s Mequon campus.

“With We Energies getting us all of the equipment we could ask for, MATC getting us the gear that we needed and the support to have another side [of poles] to work on, to really simulate a more real-life situation, it’s been incredible,” Doonan said.

Doonan spoke at the program’s inaugural “Family Day,” organized by instructor Eddie Nash. The event was held ahead of MATC’s spring commencement, and gave friends and family members a chance to see the important work their loved ones are about to start doing professionally.

After climbing poles, stringing electrical wire and building circuits for months, the new graduates were asked to demonstrate their skills one last time by safely taking it all down — a bittersweet moment for everyone involved.

“I am so proud of how far the class has come,” said Cameron Donsanouphit, class speaker and program graduate. “But there is always room to improve. Even though we are graduating, we can still help one another to grow.”

Donsanouphit, Doonan and several of their classmates will join We Energies full time in the coming weeks.