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Auto repair students get hands-on training

June 22, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- Late in the school year, Jake Nalley was driving in Myersville, Md., when his car was struck by a dump truck, destroying his vehicle and severely injuring his friend.

Jake, who recently graduated from Washington County Technical High School, said his car was at an auto shop at the school, where he and other students enrolled in the school's auto repair program were working to remove the useable parts.

"We're trying to pull the engine out and the transmission," Jake said in late May.

Many students enrolled in the auto repair program at the technical high school said they were planning to look for jobs in local repair shops after graduation. Students study either collision repair or automotive technology.

Greg Dietrich, a teacher and coordinator of the student trades foundation, said about 60 students were enrolled in both programs this year.

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Dietrich said the students primarily work on donated cars. Students repair the vehicles and then sell them. The money goes back to the school's auto repair program.

"That makes it more of a real work experience for the students," Dietrich said. "This is basically what they're going to do in the field."

In recent years, students also have repaired four vehicles for the Washington County Sheriff's Office and another for Community Rescue Services. The vehicles were refurbished and are now used by Hagerstown Citizens on Patrol -- a local community watch group, Hagerstown Police Lt. Tim Wolford said.

"They go out on weekends and call in suspicious activity to police," Wolford said of the group.

He said the students performed engine repairs, tune-ups, body work and painting on the Ford vehicles. Wolford described the work as much-needed "total makeovers" on the vehicles, which were all at least a decade old.

Brandon Myers, a recent Technical High School graduate who was enrolled in the school's collision repair program, said a lot of the vehicles students work on are "old and worn out."

Brandon said collision repair involves popping dents out of vehicles and "filling the body with putty."

Jordan Ray, who was enrolled in the school's collision repair program before graduating this month, said he hoped to find a job restoring older vehicles.

Jordan said he likes using putty to fill in dents on vehicles, and that was his main task when students repaired the police vehicles.

Michael Vanhyning, a recent graduate who specialized in automotive technology, said when he first started in the technical high school program he was only able to do a basic oil change. In the last days of the school year, Michael was using a torch to remove the engine of Nalley's demolished vehicle.

"I just enjoy working on cars," Michael said. "I just can't get enough of it. I can do just about anything now."

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