Students improved their skills while improving their community during a recent project teaming the Valdosta Fire Department with the automotive collision repair program at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College.
The Wiregrass students repaired three VFD vehicles.
During one semester, students repaired two Ford Crown Victorias and one Ford F-350 Super Duty, according to reports.
Officials said the process saved taxpayers about $10,000.
“We saw we had a need when (VFD Battalion Chief Ronald Skrine) got a hold of me for doing some repairs on their vehicles, and it fit right in line with what we’re teaching,” said Mark Whitson, ACR program director.
Skrine said the repair program presented a positive outcome for both VFD and Wiregrass.
“We had a few vehicles that looked a little rough,” Skrine said. “They still ran good, but they looked a little rough, so I was looking for ways to get them to look better and revamp them. There’s no doubt about it, Wiregrass saved us thousands of dollars, and we also provided vehicles for them to work on and get experience.”
Whitson said the repair process, which involved fixing dents and getting the bodies ready for paint, was a task that took 15 weeks to complete.
“We have to take all the cars and make them red, which is not a real easy process,” Whitson said. “Red’s a real expensive paint, but you have to make sure you have the right kind of sealer down to cover these things and do the right kind of work.”
Whitson said the red paint is more expensive as more pigments are required to make a red paint.
Whitson said one of the Crown Victorias had paint peeling off the body.
“We’re having to strip it down almost to the metal to get all the bad paint off it,” Whitson said.
The other Crown Victoria and the Ford F-350 did not present those problems, but the F-350 presented a different problem — its immense size.
“This one was really big,” Whitson said. “The bigger they are, the harder they are to make them look good.”
Whitson said on top of the repair work, students gave back to the community and developed a sense of pride from their work.
“They see the cars going down the street, and it’s their cars,” Whitson said. “They worked on them, they can show people what they’ve done, and a lot of these guys are taking pictures of them to put in their portfolio to show people when they get a job.”
One of the students in the program, Marvin Martin, said he felt a sense of pride in the project.
“Although this project is the biggest I’ve done and is testing my skills, I feel good giving back to the community in this way,” Martin said. “It’s also nice working on something that will actually be used, not just parts and pieces that will never see the road again. When I see this vehicle on the road, I can say, ‘I did that.’”
We would like to thank Valdosta Daily Times for reprint permission.