June 17, 2008

Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Responds to Nations Growing Auto Tech Demand With $7 Million in Scholarships


Contact: Christie Hyde of AAA, +1-407-444-8003, [email protected]; or Kristine Heine, +1-202-371-9600, [email protected], for AAA

Best High School Auto Technicians Meet June 24 to Vie for National Title and Week with Roush Fenway Racing

DEARBORN, Mich., June 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills continues to help answer the demand for more skilled automotive technicians by offering $7 million in scholarships to this years competitors -- $1 million more than last year.

In addition to offering millions in scholarship opportunities, the unique automotive competition will bring 50 pairs of the best young automotive technicians to Ford World Headquarters, June 24, to represent their high schools and home states in a quest for the coveted national title, as well as a chance of a lifetime to join renowned race team Roush Fenway Racing for a week.

These 100 students have proven they are the best young auto technicians in the country, said John Morse, Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills manager. To reach the national finals, they have exemplified trouble-shooting skills and technical savvy in addition to automotive expertise.

More than 8,000 auto tech students nationwide began the quest for the national title in May. After taking written exams at their high schools, the top teams were selected to move on to their states hands-on competition where they diagnosed and repaired "bugged" 2008 Ford Escapes.

The winning duo from each state will now travel to Dearborn for a shot at the national title. The pairs will have their knowledge tested again with a written examination followed by the exciting finale on the front lawn of Ford World Headquarters in a race against the clock and each other to perfectly repair identically "bugged" 2008 Ford Focuses.

Skilled automotives technicians are in extremely high demand, and programs such as Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills are a critical to meeting this growing need, said John Nielsen, AAA Approved Auto Repair and Auto Buying Network director. To reach the national finals, these students have displayed a commitment to excellence that we hope they will carry on to a successful career in the automotive industry.

Following are some of the unique stories that can be found among the 2008 national finalists:

Oregon Female Competitor Proves She Has What It Takes

Caitlin Short, a 2008 graduate of Vale High School, Vale, Ore., will be the first female student since 2005 to make the national finals. She was one of the 346 young women who competed at the high school level and 18 who made it to state competitions.

Short, who achieved the highest score on Oregons state competition qualifying exam, began studying automotive technology at the encouragement of her older sister.

Though my sister wasnt exactly mechanically inclined, she enjoyed it, so I took my first class during my freshman year and have loved it ever since, said Short. I didnt know a thing before I started taking auto tech, but I really liked taking things apart and putting them back together. Studying auto tech seemed to just click with me.

Short will study electrical engineering at the University of Idaho in the fall and hopes for a career in automotive engineering and design.

Utah Duo Refuses to Let Adversity Keep Them from Earning Spot at National Finals

His love of cars and dedication to auto tech studies helped propel 2008 Provo High School graduate Austin Springer to the national finals despite being faced with adversity in his life. Instructor Coleman McVea said Springer had to overcome many challenges to pursue his spot on the Provo High School team, including losing his father at an early age and living in several foster homes. While in school, Springer worked as an assistant manager at a health foods store and prepared for the finals after work and on weekends. Springer hopes to use Auto Skills scholarships or other financial awards to study automotive technology.

Springers teammate and fellow graduate, Benjamin Hernandez, is a Native American from a single-mother household. Hernandez, whom McVea also described as smart and hard-working, is employed in an auto tech internship training program at an independent auto shop in Provo and plans a career in engineering.

Illinois Student Prepares to Take Over Family Repair Shop Business

Kyle Shanahan, a 2008 graduate of Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, Ill., is following in his fathers footsteps by studying automotive technology, to prepare to take over the familys repair shop business.

My dad encouraged me to pursue what interests me, but ever since I was 12 and saw how the shop operated, I knew I wanted to learn more about auto technology, said Shanahan. My dad competed in programs similar to the Auto Skills competition when he was my age, so for me to go to the national finals is a big accomplishment for both of us. The apple doesnt fall far from the tree.

Shanahan will continue to work at his fathers Lombard, Ill., shop until beginning his post-secondary studies at WyoTech with his Auto Skills state scholarship prize.

Five High-Ranking Schools Seek the 2008 Crown

Five schools that placed in the top ten in 2007 are among this years national finalists -- defending champions San Luis Obispo High (Calif.), third-place Doherty High (Colo.), fifth-place Fauquier High (Va.), ninth-place Vale High (Ore.) and tenth-place Maui High (Hawaii). Two of those high-flying schools are returning to the finals for a record number of years.

Oregon Instructor on his 21st Trip to National Finals

Vale (Ore.) High School Instructor Merle Saunders will bring a team to the finals for the 21st time, the longest known record in competition history. Many veteran instructors consider Saunders students as the team to beat.

Once you have a tradition of going to the national finals, students are motivated to continue the tradition, said Saunders of his schools success. The students believe if their classmates can make it to the national finals, they can too. Additionally, working with dedicated, hard-working students helps to keep Vale High Schools tradition alive.

Under Saunders tutelage, teammates Caitlin Short and Lance Erickson are practicing an average of six-to-seven hours a day, six days a week and reviewing 1,300 written questions to prepare for the national finals.

Hawaii School Traveling to Competition for 15th Time

Maui High School in Kahului, Hawaii, will send a team to the national finals for the 15th year -- the competitions second- longest record. Instructor Neill Nakamura keeps it simple and advises his students, A good attitude will give you good results. This years team members Rodney Gazmen, a rising senior at Maui High, and 2008 graduate Louel Valdez both have plans to continue their automotive technology education after high school.

Scholarships Make Post-Secondary Education a Reality

For many students, the Auto Skills competition scholarships are essential to continuing their automotive technology education. A North Dakota student competing in Dearborn said he could not continue his education without financial assistance. He is one of at least half of the 2008 national finalists expected to continue their auto tech studies using the scholarships won at the state competitions.

Our goal is to spark the interest of young people in automotive technology careers, and were pleased we can help them continue their education through the financial awards, said Steve DeAngelis, Global Manager of Technical Support Operations at Ford Motor Company. Its even more rewarding for us when we see students who participated in the Auto Skills program complete their studies and work at Ford, as many do.

The students may use their scholarships to finance their participation in a wide range of programs, including automotive technology, engineering and collision repair, at technical schools such as Universal Technical Institute (UTI) and WyoTech, four-year colleges and universities and the Ford ASSET program.

About the 2008 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills:

The national finals consist of two parts -- a written exam on June 23 and a hands-on competition on Tuesday, June 24, starting at 9:15 a.m. at Ford World Headquarters. During this timed challenge, teams race to find and repair all deliberately placed bugs in their assigned 2008 Ford Focuses and drive across the finish line. The competition aims to encourage young men and women to embark on automotive careers, especially as automotive technicians, who are in high demand. For more information, visit www.AutoSkills.com.

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Christie Hyde

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