Hyundai donates car to ECHS auto tech

Published 11:42 pm Monday, March 20, 2006

By By Janet Little Cooper
The students enrolled in the Auto Service Career Tech program at Escambia County High School; love to tinker with the old, broken down vehicles donated to their repair shop.
Imagine their excitement when their instructor, Billy Gates pulled into the garage in a brand new 2006 Hyundai Sonata.
Gates picked up the vehicle Feb. 7 at the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) plant located in Montgomery.
The ECHS auto service department was one of 55 schools to receive the keys to the brand new 2006 NF Sonata. This was the second in a series of donations by Hyundai's first U.S. manufacturing plant.
The pre-production vehicles are to be used for training in automotive programs throughout Alabama, most of which are certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).
"We understand the value and importance of a well trained workforce and are pleased to present these vehicles to assist in Alabama's educational programs," Greg Kimble, Director of Human Recourses for HMMA said. "This donation is part of our continuing efforts to train Alabama's future workforce for careers in the automotive industry."
The first set of vehicles donated by Hyundai, went to schools with in a 50 to 75 mile radius of the Montgomery based plant in 2005, which is now being expanded to schools across the state.
The pre-production vehicles are for educational and training purposes only and are not for operation on public roads. The vehicles are disassembled during training, and the schools are instructed on the purpose and final disposition of the vehicle.
"Our students will disassemble the car to a certain point," Gates said. "This is an Auto repair shop that prepares these students for an entry-level position when they complete the program."
The Career Tech program, which is an elective for students, takes four years for a student to complete. Students are instructed on electrical electronics, brake service, power train management, suspension and steering and engine repair.
"The students in this class, learn work ethics, tool room management and social and leadership skills," Gates said.
The class not only attracts male students, but the females as well.
"If I ever get a flat tire, I'll know what to do," student Alison Barnhill said. "We are the supervisors too."
In fact, Gates said that it is the girls who keep the boys busy in class because the boys are intimidated by the girls.
But when it comes down to the vehicles, both male and female students get excited about seeing the fruits of their labor. The class received a 1984 Bronco from the Ford Corporation that been a flood in Oklahoma. The battered vehicle had 180, 000 miles on it and was not running when the class got it.
"We actually got it running," student Dustin Helton said. "It ran for about a week, but all that matters is we got it going. We thought it was a miracle."
Now instead of starting at rock bottom with a broken down vehicle, the students will learn many valuable lessons as they venture under the hood of the brand new Sonata that actually runs.

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