Auto program builds more than engines

PUHI — When Tante Azares needed to get the attention of the class, he didn’t have to raise his voice.

Instead, he fired up the Bobby Barros dragster at the Kaua‘i Community College automotive shop.

The vroom instantly captured the attention of the dozen students spread out across the facility, and in seconds they gravitated toward the noise.

Thursday marked the end of the students’ second week at the KCC Summer Outreach program, said outreach counselor Rhonda Liu.

“This is the second year for the program, and we thought we would expand it from its original carpentry base to include basics of automotive technology,” Liu said.

Students came from all three of Kaua‘i’s public high schools to participate in the two-week program. Kaua‘i High sent five students, Waimea had four and Kapa‘a sent three students.

Sponsored by Gear Up Hawai‘i, the program allows the students an opportunity to experience college-level courses as well as become aware of the different career paths available to them in the trade industries.

While studying carpentry technology, the students built a picnic table for each of the high schools they represented. But they took away more than that.

“The program teaches you how to be successful in life,” said Bob Conte, one of the program coordinators, during the closing ceremony yesterday morning. “You might not need to build a table for the rest of your life, but you have that knowledge. You also learned teamwork and the interaction between each of the schools.”

Glenn Taba, one of the course instructors, said watching the teamwork develop between the students was one of the highlights.

“Kaua‘i had the most students this year, and Kapa‘a had the least, so when the Kapa‘a students worked to keep up with the rest of the group, it was nice to see the Kaua‘i students jump in to help them,” Taba said.

Conte stressed to the teens that the program was designed to stimulate their interest in what is available to them as career options.

“You need to enjoy what you do,” he said, referring to his own experience of 20 years in the electrical field. “There is always so much to learn in the trades, and we want to see the youth come up.”

Sean Mahoney, the field representative for the carpenter’s union, echoed Conte’s words, noting that he, too, started out in the KCC carpentry shop.

He added that students need to be persistent in their pursuits.

“Whatever it takes, stick with it,” Mahoney said. “Whether it’s your career, or sports, there are ups and downs, but if you stick with it, you can achieve anything.”

The summer outreach program is a free program and made richer through the partnerships with the state Department of Education and community sponsors like Wal-Mart, The Home Depot, Hardware Hawai‘i, Puhi Paint and Pacific Service and Development.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com

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