Students fix cars, lives

Published 5:18 pm Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dakota McDonald holds up the hood of a 1997 Geo Prizm he and classmates, Greg Watts, left, and Tyler Dokey are working on in Gary Kind’s automotive technology class at Niles High School. When the repairs are finished, the car will be donated to a needy person or family.

Niles High School students are doing more than just fixing cars in automotive class. They are helping fix peoples’ lives.
Gary Kind teaches automotive technology classes at Niles High School. For the past six years, Kind’s students have been repairing old cars donated to the Calvary Road Community Church in Niles.
When the repairs are finished, the vehicles are given to a needy person or family. The recipient only pays for the cost of repairs.
Kind said the program is a win-win for students and the community.
“They feel so powerful and capable because they are giving something back to someone who couldn’t help themselves,” Kind said. “It gives them a sense of giving, and I don’t know how to teach that.”
Junior Greg Watts, who ships out with the US Army in June, was one of a handful of students working on a donated 1997 Geo Prizm last week. The car has several problems, including damage to the front bumper.
Watts and others will spend the next couple months fixing the car during the one hour a day they are in class.
“I am learning a lot and I like knowing that someone is going to get the car that I worked on. It feels pretty good,” Watts said.
Kind’s automotive technology class is designed to prepare students to pass Automotive Service Excellence testing.
Working on the donated vehicles helps supplement Kind’s curriculum.
“We are tying to get them through automotive brakes and electrical. Most of time when you get a free car you can almost guarantee it needs a bunch of brake work. That is one thing that always wears out,” he said. “But they do about everything.”
Kind said the vehicles go to people who can’t afford a vehicle, but need one in order to get to work or school. People who need vehicles fill out a request form with the church.
Kind’s class is fixing three donated vehicles this year. They’ve fixed and donated between 12-15 over the past six years.
“We are trying to make it safe and reliable, so when the car does go into new ownership they can be assured that it will get them where they need to go,” Kind said. “When a family drives away in a car it is a neat thing to see that.”