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PSHS automotive students tear it down, build it up

Completely tearing a vehicle down and then rebuilding it, part by part, students in the Pagosa Springs High School’s automotive mechanics program are not just participating in a metaphor for the school’s program, but earning money through their efforts to fund and build on the future of that program.

According to Becky Guilliams, instructor for the PSHS mechanics and welding program, the vehicle, parts and supplies will be donated to the project by local businesses and national companies. Starting Nov. 11, the students will begin taking the vehicle apart, stripping it down to the chassis, then will completely rebuild it by the May 15 deadline.

“This is an exciting chance for the kids to get some real, workplace experience,” Guilliams said. “We can weld all day long, but the automotive kids have mostly been learning from textbooks. This is a chance for them to gain some practical experience.”

Once rebuilt, Guilliams hopes that the vehicle (either a late-model Ford or Chevy truck) will be auctioned off in New York, with the funds being returned to the program for another rebuild opportunity next year.

“That’s the whole goal,” Guilliams said, “both gaining workplace experience and funding future rebuilds.”

Guilliams stated that many of the students in her class participate in SkillsUSA, which is (according to the SkillsUSA website), “a national nonprofit organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including health occupation.”

Guilliams added that mechanics and welding students aren’t the only beneficiaries of the program: students in the computer science program will be updating the industrial arts website to chart progress on the project, while PHTV (Pagosa High Television) will film various steps throughout the process.

With Guilliams succeeding in making the automotive and welding department a four-year program for the first time this year (a personal goal for her), expanding the school’s ability to graduate students with marketable skills, she said that the rebuild project will potentially help students in future years continue with practical experience in the shop.

“What we’re hoping is that freshman starting out will, in year three, be seniors in completing the build,” she said.

Nonetheless, success of the program hinges almost entirely on donations from businesses in the community and throughout the United States.

“For instance,” she said, “We have a paint bay donated, but no paint.”

Guilliams added that she hopes to get donations for accessories such as car alarms and stereos, all of which would add value to the vehicle at auction.

“It might not be entirely tricked out, but we’re hoping to make it as nice as we can,” emphasizing that, the more the vehicle gets at auction, the more money that future programs will have to operate and expand.

Donations can be made for the project by calling Becky Guilliams at 264-2231, Ext. 242. Call to find out what parts, supplies and other needs are required to make the project a success — for this year and in years to come.

jim@pagosasun.com