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Thursday, 09 April 2020 16:05

CDCR Auto Body Graduate First in State Program to Achieve I-CAR Platinum Status

Written by Victoria Antonelli
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Dan Miller, 46, a core body tech at an I-CAR Gold collision center in Orange, CA, spot welds a new core support on a Ford F-250 Super Duty. Dan Miller, 46, a core body tech at an I-CAR Gold collision center in Orange, CA, spot welds a new core support on a Ford F-250 Super Duty.


From 2012 to 2018, New Hampshire native Dan Miller, 46, served time at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Despite no prior collision repair experience, he spent his last two years not only attending, but excelling in the auto body program at the vocational school, also known as Tehachapi Mountain Adult School.


“I signed up for every vocation available,” Miller said. “I was a wood flooring contractor from 2000 to 2012 so I knew I enjoyed working with my hands and seeing the shiny finished product.”


At first, Miller said he wasn’t sure he would make it into one of the programs before his end date because of how far down he was on the waitlist. He kept himself busy with music programs and by being of service in several education departments.


“From day one, I took advantage of opportunities to better myself and do good in the community,” he said.


This included being a teacher’s assistant for adults at a fifth to eighth grade learning level, which then lead to Miller tutoring adults in a voluntary education program.


“I helped guys get their GED by creating curriculums, providing study resources and showing them what to focus on for the test,” he explained. “I have always been studious; after high school I was accepted into the University of New Hampshire for electrical engineering but didn’t have the money to go.”


In March 2016, Miller said he was finally admitted into the Tehachapi Mountain Adult School auto body program, one of the newer offerings.


“The first year or so wasn’t very productive, and I considered switching to the mechanical program,” he said.


Miller said all of that changed for the better when Mark Torres, an I-CAR Platinum certified instructor, took over his classes.


“After hearing his plans, I decided to stick around and see what would happen,” Miller said. “He ended up transforming the whole program by introducing the I-CAR curriculum, as well as more funding, which meant more equipment.”


The vocational school now has 15 auto body programs with about 27 students in each one. Each student has the opportunity to become ASE certified and all instructors are in the process of becoming I-CAR certified, said Michael Valdez, assistant administrator of the Career Technical Education Leadership Support Team at the Office of Correctional Education.


Valdez said students have access to Car-O-Liner frame and management systems and spot-welding systems, as well as PPG Envirobase paint.

“We will be upgrading to GFS paint booths soon,” he said. “This will allow for more air movement for the water-based paint, as well as additional windows so students can see the instructor’s demonstrations without having to be inside the booth for the application process.”


New paint booth rooms and paint prep rooms are also on the list, along with several other upgrades, according to Valdez.


“It will take about two years to get everything updated,” he said.


Valdez said there are also three paid inmate workers, chosen from program graduates, for every instructor, to help out and facilitate a “team” environment, much like that of a shop.

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