Ulster BOCES means different things to different people. For James Schrowang, enrolling in the Port Ewen, NY, school’s auto collision technology program meant having a teacher who mentored him and provided him with the technical skills he needed to be successful in the industry.
Schrowang has been working on vehicles since he was a youngster.
“My father and family all worked on cars. I like to tinker, and I can turn a wrench,” he said.
He explained that he chose auto collision technology over automotive technology because he already had a working knowledge of engines.
The 2014 Kingston High School graduate said pursuing a technical education made sense for him.
“I was bad at math, so I went on the Ulster BOCES visitation tour in 10th grade," he said. "I felt that the career & technical center and the auto collision technology program were the right fit for me.”
He described feeling “edgy” about traditional learning techniques.
“I couldn’t sit still, and I didn’t see the point in reading about things I don’t care about,” he recalled.
In fact, Schrowang said he barely passed geometry in regular high school. But all that changed when he took math that was integrated into his auto collision curriculum. At Ulster BOCES, he started earning A’s.
At the career & technical center, he also perfected his mechanical skills, which gave him an advantage when he graduated and began attending Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC).
“There were a lot of kids who hadn’t picked up a wrench before, and a lot of them dropped out in the first month,” he said. “They had to start from the beginning with grinding, painting and metal-straightening, and I had all that under my belt before my first year in college. It gave me a huge edge over other people.”
Today, Schrowang is a collision repair specialist at Starr Collision & Body Shop in Saugerties, NY. He credits his former instructor, Dave Rosenberg, and the time he spent at Ulster BOCES with helping him land his rewarding job. It was Rosenberg, he said, who inspired him to enroll in the college’s automotive technical services-autobody repair program and to pursue an associate degree in occupational studies.
“If I had never gone to Ulster BOCES, I might have never gone to HVCC. It’s where it all started,” he said. “It’s all connected.”
Schrowang showed initiative from the very beginning, according to Rosenberg.
“James was always positive and punctual with all of his assignments, but the biggest indicator for his success was his inquisitiveness about techniques that we hadn’t even gone over yet. He was really captivated by the subject matter,” he said.
In addition to teaching the skills needed for analyzing, assessing and fixing vehicles using modern and traditional techniques such as welding, shaping metal, auto body filler, and painting, Rosenberg stressed the importance of being able to work well with others and the importance of keeping the work area clean to avoid injuries.
Dan Starr, owner of Starr Collision and Body Shop, said he is very pleased with his partnership with Ulster BOCES.
“James [Shrowang] came to work for us and has been an asset, thanks to the foundation he built in the auto collision technology program,” said Starr.
Although Schrowang has worked on cars most of his life, he said that building on that foundation, finding his niche in the auto repair industry and taking pride in his work have led him to a fulfilling and profitable career.
“I have five or six vehicles, I am 23 years old, and I am about to buy my own house,” Schrowang said proudly. “It’s a good trade to make money.”
Speaking about his preferences in collision repair, he said, “I like doing restoration work the most. I like the feeling when it’s all done and together and painted. It’s a very rewarding feeling when you have accomplished all of that.”