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Thursday, 25 October 2012 17:29

Cypress College Receives $50,000 in Makeover Tools, Equipment

The Collision Repair Education Foundation hosted an Open House Sept. 25 at Cypress Community College in Cypress, CA to present new equipment and tools to its collision repair instructor and students - the first recipients of the $50,000 California Matching Makeover Grant.

Audatex, a Solera company, offered the $25,000 matching grant to provide one California school’s collision program with an Ultimate Collision Education Makeover through the education foundation. The initial $25,000 came from Audatex, with an additional $25,000 in contributions matched by other industry companies. Solera’s matching funds come from a $100,000 donation from Solera and CEO Tony Aquila, the largest cash donation ever received by the not-for-profit education foundation that assists secondary and post-secondary collision programs through industry support. The Solera grant was made available exclusively to California secondary or post-secondary schools.

Cypress College, the first school to receive this exclusive California-only award, was announced the winner during the 2011 SEMA show. With the $50,000 makeover grant, Cypress College received its wish list of needed tools, equipment and supplies. At the open house event, the education foundation presented Cypress College with $50,000 worth of equipment and products, including a velocity frame measuring system, desktop and laptop computers, hand tools, windshield repair system, polishers, detail equipment, tool trays and stands to hold fenders or doors and epoxy floors.

Industry supporters of the California Matching Makeover grant program for Cypress College that fulfilled the second $25,000 of the grant include 1-800-Radiator and A/C; ALLDATA; Assured Performance Network; Chilton Auto Body; Collision Services; Crockett’s Premier Autobody; FIX Auto, Hobart, Matco Tools and Oakland Autobody.

“Through all of the companies’ participation we were able to fulfill the school’s $50,000 wish list and this event is meant to showcase what the school received with their support and who the donors are that made it happen,” said Brandon Eckenrode, Associate Director of Development with the education foundation. “This event, along with our other makeover open houses, take place months after the announcement due the fact that it takes that long to coordinate all of the items being ordered and at the school for them to showcase it during the event. Plus with the school closed during the summer, we had to wait until they were back in session.”

The goal of the Ultimate Collision Education Makeover grant is to honor a school that has been doing an outstanding job in educating students in collision repair, but needs some financial assistance to improve their program’s teaching materials and equipment. With strained school budgets, the education foundation and industry supporters have the opportunity to bridge the program’s financial gap and to make a difference in the lives of the students studying collision repair. As part of the Makeover grant application, schools provide an itemized wish list which can include any tools, supplies, and equipment that are needed to by the collision program.

Dan Snook, head of the collision repair department at Cypress College, is credited with bringing in the $50,000 makeover grant to his school where 150 students are enrolled in the collision repair program. The department includes seven instructors and classes in automotive detailing, collision repair, paint and refinishing, structural repair and estimating. Cypress College is the only NATEF (National Automotive Technician Education Foundation) accredited school in Southern California.

An instructor at the college since 1999, Snook himself graduated from the program in 1986.

As a student, he said, the instructors gave him the opportunity to make a good living doing something he enjoyed. And now that he’s an instructor he enjoys seeing the growth in his students and watching them excel. While a majority of his students are in their mid 20s, some are older adults who want to learn how to work on their own cars or start a second career. Many of the students get jobs in the industry before they receive their two-year associates degree, although Snook pushes his students to finish their degrees.

Bill Noxon, 56, is retired from the grocery warehouse business after 26 years. He is in his third semester in the collision repair program at Cypress College. “I’ve liked cars all my life. It started out as a hobby,” he said. “At first I enrolled in just the collision repair, then I added paint and refinishing, then added auto detailing.” He enjoys the classroom time and working in the lab doing hands-on training. He plans to graduate with an AA degree and perhaps get side jobs and work for himself or get hired at a shop, or buy an old car and customize it himself. Noxon enjoyed working on cars as a teenager, and back then, he and his buddies taught themselves. “Things are a lot different now — 35 years later a lot has changed. It was a lot simpler back then, you could just lift up the hood and see everything, where nowadays you plug in a computer.”

For many years, Snook has been operating his department on a $6,000 annual budget for supplies and equipment. The $50,000 makeover grant and other donations from the industry totally transforms his student shop.

“Everything we do is made possible by the industry partners who donate, provide and supply everything that we have,” said Snook. “On our $6,000 budget, I couldn’t do anything more than a hobby shop with minimum tools, equipment and paint. With companies like AkzoNobel, Meguiar’s, Sherwin Williams, 3M, and others, we are able to provide what our students need. Without them we wouldn’t be able to operate. It’s ultimately all about our students to help them succeed in the industry.”

As he was applying for the makeover grant, roughly an 80-page application, Snook said he consulted with his instructors and asked them what they needed for their classes. “Each instructor in the department received something out of the grant that they would have never otherwise gotten their hands on. They got the latest and greatest available in equipment and tools.”

Snook added, “The grant has given us the ability to bring the department into the next 10 or 15 years with state-of-the-art equipment. As instructors and as a college that has one of the few collision repair facilities left, we are so appreciative of the companies that come in and donate, get involved and serve on our advisory committees and give us direction and support through donations. Without them we couldn’t do what we do,” Snook said.

“Many secondary and post-secondary collision programs throughout the country are barely surviving on their small budgets. What we’re learning is, without the focus from the  industry, schools will continue to struggle to keep up with the technology today,” said Clark Plucinksi, Executive Director at the Collision Repair Education Foundation.
“Without the support from the industry and the education foundation, these students — the future of our industry — don’t have the advantages of learning and gaining experience using the latest in equipment and tools.” Plucinksi was a shop owner for 43 years in the Washington, DC area with true2form, a 43-store chain located in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina. The chain was sold to the Boyd Group in 2010.

“Our main focus is to help students and instructors,” said Eckenrode. The Collision Repair Education Foundation was founded in 1991 originally as the I-CAR Education Foundation and its original focus was to help place I-CAR curriculum into collision school programs. In 2008, curriculum sales to the schools transitioned over to I-CAR, becoming a separate organization from the education foundation. The Education Foundation became a 501c3 charitable organization that fundraises and supports collision repair education to enhance career opportunities in the industry.

Since 2009, the foundation has offered their annual national Ultimate Collision Education Makeover school grant to one secondary or post-secondary school’s collision program. Over the past four years, over 200 schools nationwide have applied for this grant. “Non-profit schools are eligible to apply, and to be a recipient speaks wonders of the instructors and their commitment to students and their program,” said Eckenrode.

In 2011, the education foundation raised $4.1 million and by 2013, the organization hopes to raise $10 million annually in materials, supplies, support and cash donations. According to Eckenrode, 85 cents of every dollar raised in 2011 in combined product and monetary donations went directly to help schools.

The 2012 Education Foundation secondary and post-secondary makeover grant winning schools will be announced at a Oct. 30 reception during SEMA 2012 in Las Vegas. The foundation received 70 applications from schools in 31 states. According to Eckenrode, starting this year, two makeover grants will be offered so that secondary and post-secondary schools don’t have to compete with each other. Additionally, because many of the companies donate their products, the foundation is still able to help fulfill the wish lists of schools who did not win the makeover grant.

For more information about the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s Ultimate Collision Education Makeover $50,000 school grant, visit or contact Associate Director of Development Brandon Eckenrode at or call (847)463-5244.

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