Tuesday, 20 November 2012 21:33

Education Foundation Awards $50,000 Makeover Grants at SEMA

The Collision Repair Education Foundation announced the two winning schools who will each receive a $50,000 Ultimate Collision Education Makeover grant. The winners were surprised at an Oct. 30 reception held at the Las Vegas Hotel during SEMA.

This year, for the first time, both a secondary and a post-secondary school received a $50,000 makeover grant. The two winning schools are Nichols Career Center in Jefferson City, MO, (a secondary school) and Manhattan Area Technical College located in Manhattan, KS. The Education Foundation awarded two grants so secondary and post-secondary schools didn’t have to compete with each other. Seventy schools from 31 states applied for the 2012 Makeover grant. Over the next several months, the Education Foundation will be working to fulfill the two schools’ collision programs $50,000 wish lists of needed tools, equipment and supplies.


Although he was unable to attend the reception due to Superstorm Sandy, Collision Repair Education Foundation Executive Director Clark Plucinski later noted,  “It was great bringing the collision industry together during our industry reception to not only highlight the support the organization has provided to collision school programs through the generosity of our industry donors, but also to surprise both of these instructors that their collision programs will have their $50,000 wish lists fulfilled. We look forward to working together with not only the two winning schools but also focusing support on all of the applicant schools, as they took the time and effort to let us know their specific collision needs. Congratulations again to both Nichols Career Center and Manhattan Area Technical College!”

The two instructors attending the late-night Las Vegas reception were awestruck when they learned they had won the makeover grants for their schools. The $50,000 for tools and equipment means their programs, barely surviving on miniscule budgets, can now offer the newest and latest in industry technology for their students.

Dennis Bruemmer, instructor at Nichols Career Center Automotive Collision Technology in Jefferson City, MO, said he was “totally overwhelmed” when the announcement was made that his school was one of the winners.

“Before being hired as their instructor in 1998, I had served on the Nichols Career Center Automotive Collision Advisory Board,” Bruemmer said. “My personal goal has always been to improve the quality of education for the students in this program. Winning this grant will help tremendously in my quest to achieve this goal. I am extremely grateful to those involved for choosing my program to receive this award.”

The Automotive Collision Technology program at Nichols Career Center has been in existence for 36 years, from its inception during the 1976-1977 school year. “I am proud to say I was a student in that first class at Nichols Career Center,” said Bruemmer. “My instructor at that time was Fred Bremmerkamp, who now runs a successful collision repair business. He, as well as many other area collision repair facilities, have participated in internships and shop tours for our students. These internships have led to full-time positions for some of our students, as well as encouraged others to continue their education in collision repair after they have graduated from our program.”

The collision repair program at Nichols currently has 27 students.

The Manhattan Area Technical College in Kansas has offered their automotive program to students since the 1970s. Typically, the program has 18-20 students, but this year, only nine are enrolled. With a budget of only $8,600, instructor Linn Schroll can’t buy much in the way of materials, tools or equipment. Due to the constrained budget, students get hit with lab and material fees. He plans to spend some of the Makeover grant money to beef up his program and attract more students.

“Winning the Ultimate Makeover grant from the Collision Repair Education Foundation was one of the biggest surprises of my life,” said Schroll. “My wife and I were standing at the back of the room because I don’t win these kind of things, so why move up in the room? When they started reading part of the application letter for the post-secondary winner, I looked at my wife and said, ‘Holy cow, that is my writing, I think I just won.’ I am not really sure how I made it to the stage.”

Even though he’s had time to digest the news, Schroll said his head is “still spinning. I still can’t believe that we won but I am excited about what it will mean to this program. I have put many hours into this program over the last six years and it feels really good to be recognized for my efforts on a national level. I am also very pleased that so many things that I have wanted for the program will be completed because of this Makeover grant. I think most teachers who are committed to improving a program donate so much of their own time and money to help make a program better, but with limited resources, there is only so much you can do out of your own pocket.

“By winning the Makeover grant, I will be able to accomplish in a short time what would have taken years to accomplish, if at all. We are being contacted by vendors who are donating materials and the Foundation is making contact with a lot of people to get things moving. I can’t thank the selection committee and the Foundation enough for what this will mean to the school, students and myself,” Schroll said.

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