Since the beginning of time, whether you admit to participating or not, high school seniors across the country have picked a day every year and called for a mass boycott of all educational activities.
While some remember Senior Skip Day for the fun they had with friends during scheduled school hours, or the reaction from teachers and administrators when they returned to school the next day, Imanne Robinson will remember his Senior Skip Day as the day he changed his life and got the opportunity to follow a childhood dream.
On Senior Skip Day in late April, Robinson was showing off his skills on a dirt bike by riding around the city. Robinson, who was then a senior at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy (WSPA), was stopped by Sgt. Todd Hart with the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD). Instead of arresting the teenager, Hart let Robinson go and contacted his parents. Robinson said Hart also contacted the Student Resource Officer (SRO) at WSPA, who told him to report to the school before the end of the day.
“When I got there, they talked to me about what happened and told me what I could’ve been charged with and what I was going to get charged with,” said Robinson. “That’s when Sargent Hart asked me what I like to do, and I said, ‘Fix cars and bikes.’”
After talking with him more and getting to know him better, Hart referred Robinson to the S.O.A.R. (Successful Outcomes After Release), a program designed to provide gainful employment to former offenders who meet program guidelines while supplementing the city’s existing workforce in areas of critical need, and to Dave Moore at Southside Rides.
Hart said a lot of young people really don’t know what they want to do, but Robinson was adamant about his love for cars.
“He really voiced his interest in cars, and to me going to court or possible jail isn’t really going to help anybody, so when he told me about his interest, I knew Pam Peoples-Joyner had this program here with the garage,” Hart said.
Robinson didn’t waste any time reaching out to Pam Peoples-Joyner to find out more about the chance to work at the garage. In fact, he left a message that night, he said.
“I’ve been into cars since I was in the fifth grade. It’s something I’ve always been interested in,” said Robinson. “My dad is a mechanic, so it’s always been there.”
Once meeting Moore, owner and founder of Southside Rides, which operates in conjunction with Forsyth Technical Community College, the Forsyth County jail, and the 21st District Court of North Carolina to educate its participants in auto body repair and servicing and to provide alternative vocational opportunities for incarcerated citizens, Robinson learned the ends and outs quickly and started working on his own projects.
In just six months, he painted the family car himself and put a new engine in the car with some help from his father. When discussing Robinson’s progress, Moore said he loves to see a young person like Imanne, who knows what he wants to do with his life.
“He came in like, every day, even on the weekends, and built a relationship with the guys,” said Moore. “It thrills me because I love to see a kid make up his mind and understand what he needs to do to be successful, because a lot of them don’t know what they want to do while they’re in school.”
Since that day he was caught joy riding in late April, Robinson’s passion for cars has continued to grow. He is now enrolled at Forsyth Tech Community College, where he is taking classes on collision repair. After hearing the progress Robinson has made in such a short period of time, Hart told him he was a role model to younger kids in the community.
He said, “You’re actually being a leader to other people who you don’t even realize.”
Robinson said his goal once he finishes at Forsyth Tech is to one day own a shop. Moore, who has been in the business for more than 20 years, said he could see him and his father opening a shop.
“I want to find a good job at a shop and work my way up to owning my own shop,” said Robinson. “I think the hardest part would be finding hard workers who are willing to work every day.”