Leaving the nest

Jan. 1, 2020
Association, company, individual and symposium collaboration yielded more than $110,000 in student scholarships — awarded to encourage, recognize and support the industry leaders of the future.

Scholarship recipients look to life after graduation

Association, company, individual and symposium collaboration yielded more than $110,000 in student scholarships — awarded to encourage, recognize and support the industry leaders of the future.

One hundred and fifteen students, 105 from the United States and 10 from Canada, were announced as recipients of $1,000 and $2,000 scholarships from the Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) Scholarship Committee.

After successfully partnering with multiple state, scholarship fund and automotive industry organizations last year, the GAAS committee again teamed up with groups including the Automotive Communications Council Scholarships, University of the Aftermarket Foundation, Automotive Parts & Services Association, R.L. Polk & Co. and the California/Nevada/Arizona Automotive Wholesalers' Association (CAWA), among others.

"This year, we are pleased to say we have grown closer to our goal of becoming a 'one-stop shop' for students seeking automotive scholarships through increased collaboration with other automotive and aftermarket groups," says Peter Kornafel, GAAS Scholarship Committee chairman. "By working together, we are benefiting the students who can submit one application and be considered for multiple scholarships."

The scholarships aim to attract, retain and financially help students and industry sons and daughters looking to pursue aftermarket careers.

One multiple-scholarship winner, Kelsey Stoddard, 17, is using her awards to help fund her continuing education — slated to begin at the Kent State University Stark campus, in North Canton, Ohio, later this summer.

Majoring in a four-year advertising program, the Canton South High School graduate hopes to follow in the footsteps of her mother — an advertising executive with ASC Industries, Inc.

Christopher Wise, 19, has been working at an Audi dealership near his Exton, Penn. school — the Universal Technical Institute — for the past three years. When he graduates in August, Wise hopes to go into the Audi Academy and looks forward to worrying less about his finances.

"I was really excited about the scholarship because it has been really tough for me going to school in the morning and then having to work at night. Now it is a little easier," Wise says of the scholarship program — showcasing its success in fulfilling the need for support that Kornafel and the committee have seen in the industry.

"The mission, from the beginning, was to help young people take a first step in the aftermarket," says Kornafel.

But even with multiple scholarship opportunities available, almost 250 of the 357 applicants were not chosen as recipients. "We left a lot of good kids on the table. We really do have more kids than money," Kornafel says. He aims to have more funding available in the future.

But not all students were overlooked. "So excited" about her GAAS scholarship, Cait Menough, 18, from Louisville, Colo., is using her $1,000 award for tuition at Denver's Lincoln College of Technology Institute.

Introduced to repair work by her dad, a shadetree mechanic, Menough learned oil changes and other general maintenance on her first car — a 1992 Toyota Corolla.

"I loved getting my hands dirty, and I've always been a tomboy," she says. "I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life — be in the auto industry."

To get established, she hopes to work for a higher-end dealership like BMW or Mercedes. "And later, I want to own a restoration shop to restore American muscles from the '60s and '70s," says Menough, who will focus her education on automotive technology and business.

Despite the success of the program, Kornafel is disappointed in the industry's encouragement of students. "More than half the applicants learned about the program from their school or through the Internet. Not many learned about it from an industry sponsor. Shame on us," he says.

Improved visibility and accessibility to students and increased funding and scholarship opportunities are the goals of the committee for 2009. Kornafel hopes the program can continue to promote the aftermarket and ensure its success.

"It is a good business," he says. "It has been very nice to me my whole life, and I hope that continues for others."