A former Noble County Sheriff’s Department deputy’s car has found new life with West Noble School Corp.
Students from Impact Institute’s auto body and collision and repair program recently completed a yearlong project, transforming a Ford Crown Victoria into a school resource vehicle for “Buck” Leamon at West Noble.
Leamon, a former police officer, is one of three school resource officers at West Noble.
“We are very pleased with their work. (The car) is great,” said West Noble Superintendent Dennis VanDuyne while admiring the vehicle at the Impact Institute auto-body and collision shop in Kendallville.
West Noble purchased the vehicle from the Noble County Sheriff’s Department last year. VanDuyne said the department had planned to trade in several cars, and the school district inquired about buying one.
“This is the best of the lot,” VanDuyne said.
When old police cars are sold, they have be to stripped of their original paint and refinished, he added.
VanDuyne said his first instinct was to hire Impact Institute to do the bodywork. “I thought of our own students,” he said.
West Noble is one of 13 members schools that support Impact Institute’s mission to advance students’ career and technical education.
The auto-body and collision program is among the classes offered through Impact Institute, providing students with hands-on experiences, said director Jim Walmsley.
Impact Institute has classes in interactive media, automotive technology, culinary arts, computer-aided drafting, cosmetology, construction, health care, welding and criminal justice.
The auto-body and collision program, led by Jose Gallo, presently has 52 students from several school districts that take part in morning and afternoon classes. The program is a two-year course that students begin in their junior year.
Once they graduate from the program, they will have received 14 I-CAR certifications — the industry standard for auto-body collision.
“They can walk into a body shop and qualify for an apprenticeship,” Gallo said.
Within three months of starting their first year in the program, the students are out on the shop floor, applying the skills they are learning in the classroom.
Gallo said his students do work for the community on a regular basis. Ninety-percent of those customers are off the street, he added. Impact Institute does not charge customers for labor, only for the materials used on the vehicle.
“This gives them a good opportunity to use their skills,” Gallo said.
The West Noble project required the help of every student in the program. Students had to sand the vehicle before it could be painted, and several dents had to be repaired.
“It’s a lot of physical labor removing old paint,” Gallo said.
While every student can pitch in and help sand cars, the job of painting belongs to the advanced students. Once students reach their second year in the program, they are allowed to paint.
Brody Hankey of East Noble High School and Joey Waltenberger of Eastside Jr./Sr. High School, both seniors, completed the paint work on the West Noble car.
Painting is not for everyone, Gallo said. He tries to show students who might find painting more challenging that they can still use their skills for other jobs in the auto-body industry.
“They don’t have to be the best painter,” he said. “They can also go into management.”
Gallo’s students have also done work for the Garrett Police Department and the Indiana State Police.
“It’s good for them to work on real projects,” VanDuyne said. “It’s hands-on teaching along with the curriculum.”
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