The Automotive Repair program at Valley Forge High School is the oldest vocation program in the Parma City School District.
Instructor Gary Mitchhart has been teaching the program for 10 years, and he has anywhere from 35 to 50 juniors and seniors in the program at any time.
"Most of the kids don't have any rudimentary knowledge of cars or engines or how to fix them when they first start the program," Mitchhart said. "When they're finished with the class, they can work on brakes, suspension, do a tune-up amongst other basic car maintenance."
By the time they finish the program, the students will be certified in the Automotive Service Excellence program. Mitchhart boasts a 100 percent passage rate amongst his students. Many of them will get a job in automotive repair right out of high school.
When a student gets through with the program, he or she is ready to go out into the workplace. Students learn to diagnose, adjust, overhaul, repair and replace mechanical and electrical parts of a vehicle.
During the junior year, students are trained to do a complete engine overhaul and to repair most parts of the chassis of an automobile.
During the senior year, students learn chassis and alignment, automatic transmissions, advanced electrical, heating and air conditioning.
They don't do body work on vehicles. That program is at Parma Senior High School.
Joshua Milam, for example, wants to be a motorcycle mechanic and own a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He remembers watching his father and uncle working on their vehicles and learned a little from them.
"I've always loved to tinker with engines," Milam said. "It's fun, and I like doing it."
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