How will this grant impact your program?
It’s huge. With the budgets we’ve had cut—I mean, this year, they shut our budget completely off, and I haven’t run out of funds at all. For the tools and equipment and the products that we need, this will make a big difference for our students.
[School] administrators have a hard time understanding the collision repair part of it, and it’s importance. The industry’s awesome; everyone is great and helps so much. But it’s the budget part of it. Everyone is getting their budgets cut or are losing their budgets. Obviously, collision repair is always one of the first programs that [schools] try to cut right away.
That’s why this is just so huge for us, for me, for the product and equipment and things we’re hoping to get and that we need for the kids to keep moving on.
What are some of the key purchases this grant will help with?
The main thing is that we need a paint-mixing room. We’re currently mixing in the middle of the shop. We do have a little one, but it’s only big enough for me and another student. A new, larger room is going to be a huge thing so that I can structure lessons inside the paint booth with a group of kids.
Also, we went to waterborne, so our booth actually needs to be updated; we need a new system so that we can actually spray more waterborne and get more production going.
I’m a big believer in getting kids ready for production, especially second-year kids. I want them to get a car in there, get it moving and get it out. Even if there are problems, we can’t be picking on a kid that makes a mistake, because we’re all going to learn off that mistake. We all have to learn off each other’s mistakes.
The other things would be products and clear coats, some welding stuff, welding equipment. There are some other things like that we’re looking for.
What is your message to high school students of why they should join this industry?
I started out the same way in the same field in the same situation. Collision repair has always been wonderful for me and given me a great life. That’s what I tell the kids. There are so many things you can get out of it, and so many segments of the field that you can get into. I would do anything for a kid to help them get into the field.