Students zoom toward careers in cars
ACTION: Senior Chris Contreras dismounts a tire in the auto shop at
Hemet High School last week. Contreras, 17, already owns his own
tire shop, Chris’ Tires.|
VALERIE DETWILER / The Valley Chronicle
Chris Contreras is not your average 17-year-old high
Not only is the Hemet High School senior a
full-time student, he also owns his own business - Chris'
Contreras said his dad started the shop for him a year and a
He learned most of what he knows of cars in high school.
Contreras is part of the school's ROP automotive program.
automotive technology classes exist to help prepare students such as
Contreras for careers in the automobile industry. Without the education,
Contreras would not have the skills to open his tire
Instructor Vance Bloom said Hemet has the only Automotive
Youth Educational Systems and National Automotive Technicians
Foundation-certified program in Riverside Country.
Bloom oversees nine ROP
programs and is, himself a master technician.
Bloom said because
the school's program is certified, it gets perks, such as paid internships
for the students at San Jacinto Valley dealerships, and nicer cars on
which students can learn are donated to the shop.
Hemet has 15 shop
cars, including a Lexus LX 430 in perfect running condition and a Toyota
Tacoma truck. Both cars are fairly new and were donated to the
Both AYES and NATEF invite schools to participate because,
Bloom said, there are not enough young people going into the automobile
He said cars are getting more technical and there are
fewer people to work on them.
The introduction to auto mechanics
class prepares students to get a job in any tire shop, changing and
rotating tires and fixing flats, said Bloom.
In the introduction
class, students learn basic skills about wheels and tires, starting and
charging systems, cooling systems, tune-ups, routine maintenance, and
engine computer control systems.
The upper-level classes get
detailed and cover brake systems, electrical systems, and engine
Bloom said basic auto mechanics attracts students for
three main reasons: They enjoy cars and want to learn more about them,
they would like to be able to repair their own cars, or they want to have
enough knowledge so they don't get ripped off when they go to a mechanic
to have work done on their cars.
“The more they know about (cars),
the less likely they are to get cheated,” Bloom said.
To enroll in
the ROP upper-level classes, students must be 16 years old. However, Bloom
said if a student shows a genuine interest and passes all of the
requirements to take the upper-level classes, special arrangements can be
The classes are not only geared towards boys.
said girls have been some of his best students “because they follow
directions and ask questions.” Boys, he said, tend to try to figure things
out without directions.
Last week, the upper-level ROP students
were learning how to secure a job at a garage.
Bloom said they
learned how to put a resume together and how to interview. The students
would have to call businesses to schedule interviews and present their
resume. Jobs range from working in a tire shop to working at a
One student, John Mulgannon, was trying to get a job at
Patton Racing, a place in town that works on NASCAR engines.
want them to pick a place to work that they are interested in,” Bloom
Bloom said when students find their niche in the automotive
industry, they are much more successful than if they were to do something
they didn't enjoy.
The ROP automotive technician classes don't just
teach students about cars. The classes rely on math and science, Bloom
said, and students are encouraged to do well in those topics so they can
better understand cars.
He said math skills such as decimals,
fractions, measurements, and geometry are used in auto
To achieve the level of a master technician, students
must take and pass those subjects at the community college
Bloom said Honda has a curriculum at Mt. San Jacinto College
that prepares students to work at its dealerships and Toyota has one at
Riverside Community College. Both programs include math and
“We encourage these guys to do well in math and science so
they can move up the ladder faster in their careers,” Bloom said. “In
order for them to be successful in their careers, they must excel in math
Hemet has matriculation agreements with both colleges
that enable students to earn college credit for the upper-level classes
they take at the high school.
The auto mechanics program is
branching out soon.
The classroom shares a wall with the school's
weight room, which will soon be relocated to across Stetson Avenue, next
to the stadium. The weight room will then serve as an extension of Hemet's
auto shop. However, it will specialize in the repairing of agricultural
equipment, such as small tractors or large mowers.
John Deere has
already agreed to sponsor the program.
Bloom said he could be
making a lot more money working as a master technician. However, he said,
he has to love his job and he loves teaching students about the thing he
is passionate about - cars.
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