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LCTC automotive students learn valuable skills

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

Editor’s Note: Only first names were used for students at the request of the school.

While working toward high school graduation, LeCroy Career Technical Center student Leighton is already getting on-the-job experience in his industry.

Leighton is in the auto service technology program taught by Lee Brown, who has 20 years’ experience teaching at LCTC and experience in the field having worked at Stokes Chevrolet.

This semester, Leighton has an internship at Major Muffler in Clanton, which gives him expanded opportunities while earning a paycheck.

“I like mechanics, and I like figuring out how things work, and I don’t mind getting a little dirty,” Leighton said.

Major Muffler owner Norman Little had approached LCTC asking if they had a student to recommend.

“I am really appreciative of Mr. Norman for giving me the opportunity to do it,” Leighton said. “He is a really good man.”

Leighton is just one of several students who have landed an internship or apprenticeship through the program.

“Strong ties with industry partners results in a wide variety of internships, equipment and vehicle donations, as well as industry presentations, demonstrations and clinics,” according to Alfredia Shavers, LCTC assistant principal.

An average of 4-6 seniors per year in the program complete an internship. Seniors can also participate in job-shadowing opportunities.

While at LCTC, students get hands-on experience in foundational mechanics, including brake work, alignments, electrical systems, steering and suspension, transmissions, drivetrains and engines.

They often work on each other’s cars. Sometimes teachers and community members will bring their vehicle to the student shop. Each student wears a uniform with the department logo on it.

At Major Muffler, Leighton has gained additional transmission and oil change experience as well as working with ball joints, brakes and tires.

He said he has enjoyed that it is “a lot more hands-on (work), and I like the environment.”

Working in a business rather than the school shop has also given him the opportunity to see the day-to-day aspects of being a mechanic, such as working with customers and watching his coworkers.

Many of the auto service technology students have experience working with family members on older vehicles.

Seniors Jonathan and Skylar said they were interested in the courses because they have family working in the industry.

“Every now and then, me and my dad would buy a car, fix it up and flip it, so I have kind of been around cars my whole entire life … working on cars in general is fun to me,” Jonathan said.

Jonathan said he wants to study mechanical engineering in college and eventually design his own engine and then build it.

What many of the seniors have enjoyed the most is working with the other students in the class.

“You learn a lot of stuff from all these other people, too,” Jonathan said.

For Skylar, it was working with his father and grandfather on vehicles that inspired him to learn more about mechanics. He plans on attending college for mechanical engineering.

Austin said he helped his dad work on trucks from the age of 8.

In the LCTC class, Austin has enjoyed gaining new skills because knowing how to fix his own vehicles can save a lot of money.

Angel, who is a high school senior, became interested in mechanics after needing to fix his dirt bike a couple times.

“After that, I got more into trucks, and I wanted to build lower trucks and stuff like that, so I came over here to learn more,” Angel said.

He said he liked the format of the class — learning through experience.

After graduation, Angel is considering “maybe going to Lawson and work, or if not, there was a custom shop that I was interested in in Alabaster.”

Dirt bikes are also what got Caleb interested in automotive work.

“I grew up racing dirt bikes,” Caleb, who is a high school senior, said. “Me and my dad we always built my dirt bike, and it just kind of went from racing dirt bikes to building cars … I like being able to fix things, take something that is not running and make it run.”

Caleb and Timothy plan to attend Universal Technical Institute. Caleb wants to study power and performance.

“I’m taking NASCAR, and I plan to be a NASCAR pit crew member,” Timothy, who is a high school senior, said.

Leighton plans to attend the University of Alabama for mechanical engineering with a focus on the automotive side.

“I feel like I am mechanically driven,” Leighton said.

Each of the students have the opportunity to complete the qualifications for ASE certification as a part of the two-year program.

Students apply to the program in their sophomore year of high school.