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Thursday, 20 June 2013 15:20

East Bay College Reaches Out to Help Auto Tech Student

To view a pdf file of this article with photos, click HERE.

Through benevolence programs and other efforts, the collision industry in the Bay Area is well known for giving cars to people that need and deserve them. In this scenario, an auto tech school gave a vehicle to one of its students, which allowed him to land a job at a body shop. It’s a story of turning your life around and overcoming all obstacles in your way.

William White grew up on the tough south side of Richmond, CA, where on some days shootings are more common than car accidents. Because his parents weren’t in his life, other family members raised him instead. He dropped out of high school and worked a series of low-paying jobs with no future. White wanted a better life for himself, so he started attending classes at Contra Costa College (CCC) in San Pablo, CA, and enrolled in the school’s collision repair program.

During the fall semester of 2008, White had a “life-changing” experience at CCC as he embraced the college experience and flourished while impressing his teachers. Through his hard work, White received a Certificate of Completion in Auto Repair and passed his SWQT, AWQT and structural tests. In addition, he has enrolled in general education courses to earn his Associate of Science degree.

Every day, White rode his bicycle to and from school because he didn’t have a car or even a driver’s license. So one of CCC’s advisors and part-time faculty member, James Davis, took him out and they practiced driving in a local mall parking lot, before eventually progressing to the streets and then onto the freeway. In addition, James paid for professional driving lessons. When he felt he was ready, White scheduled his driving test and in the meantime, the advisory committee members decided that their next benevolence project would be to give him a car so that when he got his license he could drive to work rather than take the bus.

When Peter Lock, the head of the auto tech department at CCC, observed White’s skills and his work ethic, he decided to help him to find a job at a shop. But, the fact that Will did not have a driver’s license was obviously an issue. Subsequently, Lock took White to the DMV where he passed the driver’s test. Unfortunately, the DMV could not issue him a license because he could not pass the eye examination. Acting quickly, the people at CCC’s Auto Technology Program made arrangements for Will to see an eye doctor and receive eye glasses for the first time in his life at the age of 34. After getting his glasses, White called Lock, who was vacationing in Hawaii, and announced, “I can finally see!”

The plans were afoot and to keep it a secret, everyone involved had to tap into their acting skills. “Will had no idea what was in store for him regarding the car,” Lock said. “As a ruse, we set up a verbal interview at the college with Jim Boyle of Regal Collision Repair in Vallejo. Jim, his wife and partner Shellie Malone Boyle and production manager, Kirk Kapfenstein talked with Will and set up a shop tour for the next week. The following Tuesday, Will took four buses to get from Richmond to Vallejo to tour the shop.”

The charade was working and White evidently had no clue as the presentation approached. “I invited Will to our annual end-of-year barbecue, scheduled for May 20,” Lock explained. “Before the festivities began, in front of the assembled group, Jim and Kirk ‘offered’ Will a job at their shop, but then I interrupted the proceedings to say ‘He might have a job but he doesn’t have a way to get there.’ At that point, Jim Gardner, our tool room assistant, drove up with the newly redone 1993 Honda with a big red bow on it. Will was obviously speechless.

“It was awesome,” Lock said. “The Send Your Car to College program played a huge role, and although the students in the collision repair and refinishing program didn’t know who was going to receive it, many took part in its repair—stripping paint, disassembling bumpers and repainting most of the car.”

Along with the donated car, William received six months of free auto insurance.

The car also came with many added donations from industry locals. James Davis donated one year’s use of a FasTrack Pass to get across the Carquinez Bridge to work in Vallejo. Dennis O’Keefe from 3M donated car wash supplies and gas cards. Rich Gomon from AkzoNobel donated a gift card for Craftsman tools at Sears. I-CAR instructor Kurt Money, Kathy Mello from TGIF Body Shop, Gigi Walker from Walker’s Auto Body, Sean Kopec from FinishMasters and Tiffany Silva from Accurate Auto Body donated money for insurance and registration. Jim Gardner from CCC donated a steering wheel lock to keep the car safe. Steve Kahn donated the new transmission, catalytic converter, smog certification and service. Lucille Beatty, auto tech professor and current department chairperson, acquired the car through the “Send Your Car to College” program.

Another CC student, Michiko Wagner, used this opportunity to create a student project—a photographic essay of this benevolence project. The photos accompanied this article were taken by Wagner, Lock said.

White started his new job at Regal Collision Repair on June 3 and owner Jim Boyle is already praising his newest employee.

“William is working closely with one of our body men, Dustin Flazer, to learn how we do things around here. William interned here for a while first, to shadow our parts guy, our detailing guy, etc. He’s very methodical and I’m seeing some very good things from him. I attended CCC myself way back in the early ‘80s, so to have him working here is huge.”

And with his new car, eye glasses and driver’s license, White has been able to get to work right on time every day, according to Boyle.

“Yes, he’s here and ready to roll right on time and he’s not afraid to work. When someone shows an attitude like William’s, it makes it easy to help him in any way we can.”


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