To celebrate the achievements and extraordinary resilience of the historic class of 2021, the Rappahannock News will feature one Rappahannock County High School senior each week until graduation on May 28. Students have been nominated by their teachers and mentors to be featured in the Senior Spotlight series.
Eighteen-year-old high school senior Justin Wissinger wakes up every weekday at 4:30 a.m. By 6 a.m. he’s on the job in Warrenton, where he’s working towards an apprenticeship with Dynalectric, an electrical construction contractor.
“We’re commercial electricians so we’re in big industrial buildings … pulling wire, running conduits, anything,” he says. “It’s something I’m interested in and the money is really good.”
Wissinger continued: “I’ve always wanted to get into a trade. I’m not the kind of person who wants to sit in an office just because it’s not for me … [electrical] skills are good to have and if it’s something I can be good at and make decent money at and have a decent living, it’s something I have an interest in.”
Wissinger says most of the time he works on teams of about 50 people — 40 journeymen plus 12 apprentices.
The most challenging part of the job, Wissinger says, is communicating. “At times someone may think you know something, so communication can be a challenge sometimes. I’ve always been pretty good at math and I’ve always been hands-on and good with tools, and I work with good people who are there to help and there to teach,” he says.
It’s easy to forget that Wissinger, who works 60 hours a week, is also finishing his high school degree. And even though he’s still a senior, in more ways than one he feels like he’s put high school in the rearview mirror.
“The pandemic, unfortunate as it is, really limited the traditional school feeling. I felt like for me, just knowing that I wasn’t going to go back to the same thing every day — waking up and going to school — it kind of pushed me to get moving on with life,” he explains. “I don’t like sitting around doing nothing.”
When the pandemic first began and Wissinger realized he would have a lot more time on his hands, he decided he wanted to work longer hours and make some money. “I’ve always wanted to work … so when all this happened and I was able to do that, it was hard for me not to just kind of move on,” he says.
“Because of the COVID thing, everything’s been online … so being able to do that online in the evenings and on the weekends and stuff like that has allowed me to be able to work full time as well,” Wissinger adds.
Asked what advice he would give his younger self, Wissinger says: “Probably apply myself a little more in school. I’ve always done well in school but I’ve never done more than what I should’ve done. … I’ve always gotten good grades but I never pushed myself, really.”
When he’s not at work, Wissinger likes to hunt and fish. For the past couple of weekends, Wissinger has gone out turkey hunting. “When you get up at 4:30 every day it’s not too hard to get up at 5:30 to go hunt turkey,” he says with a laugh.