PA Students’ Efforts Become a Transportation ‘Gift’


Twenty-one students from Pottsgrove, Spring-Ford and Upper Perkiomen high schools, all learning auto body repair skills at the Western Montgomery Career and Technology Center in Limerick, PA, gave a gift of transportation freedom May 20 to an area family.

Students taught by collision repair instructor Charles “Chuck” Smith worked during a period of two academic years to complete the occasionally monumental task of bringing a damaged automobile back to usable life.

They weren’t alone in the job. Many underwriters, including local collision and body shops, parts suppliers, other retailers and those who believe in the center’s mission, also helped.

The gleaming result was on display, and the keys and title were officially handed over to a Lansdale mother of three, during the Western Center’s 2023 Car Show at its 77 Graterford Road property.

The presentation of the black, better-than-new, four-door Toyota sedan was among the highlights of a day filled with activity. In addition to the car show, the center also hosted a pancake breakfast, a raffle, a 50-50 cash drawing, a dunk tank, ice cream and lunch vendors, a swag bag distribution and fundraisers for the Bruno Memorial and the Team Emma campaign fighting childhood cancer.

Turning over the ignition keys represented the culmination of intense preparation, planning, paperwork and old-fashioned elbow grease by Western Center administrators, instructors and students alike. Its administrative director, David Livengood, indicated he was proud of their accomplishments and pleased their efforts met the family’s needs.

A Long Road to Completion

It’s been a long journey, Smith acknowledged.

The Western Center in 2021 began working with the National Auto Body Council, a nonprofit group of professional automotive collision repairers. It emphasizes community service, and supports educational initiatives. One of its programs is Recycled Rides, which it said gives vocational students the chance “to learn their trade with hands-on training on late-model vehicles.”

College- and advanced-level institutions are usually chosen as program participants, but the Western Center’s reputation and that of its local sponsor, Limerick Auto Body, attracted attention. “It’s a big deal to be at the secondary level (like the Western Center), and be part of this group,” Smith proudly explained.

A choice of vehicles was offered to qualifying schools. The Western Center received specific guidelines and instructions to operate and promote the effort. A selection process within Montgomery County identified the recipients. Students learned from Smith and others skills they needed for the repair tasks involved, and they kept up with studies at their home schools too. The work began.

Consider that a simplified description. Once the Toyota project car, with light rear-end damage and only 58,000 miles on its odometer, was assigned to Smith and the class, they created an estimated cost for the job. But they also needed to raise funds to buys some of the parts required. They hunted for and found potential donors for others.

Locally Bill Flannery Automotive, Chuck’s Auto Parts Solutions and other firms and individuals lightened the fundraising burden with discounts and donations, Smith said gratefully.

Most heartening for Smith, he said, was to see his students dive into the project. “This was a way” that inspired them to serve as volunteers “and work in the community. It really, greatly impacted someone’s life. And they had the satisfaction of being able to do that.” Their pride in the work, and their pleasure in charitably producing value for a stranger, was evident throughout, he confirmed.

This wasn’t a run-of-the-mill exercise, either. Some of the work, Smith said, involved tasks that are “not the type of work typically” found in technology school curriculums. The project’s needs favorably stretched the students’ education and skill sets. “It was the type of work done in every auto body shop on Ridge Pike,” he said, “and a chance (for the students) to do something real.”

Reason to Be Proud

The students themselves were just as proud. Asked what was their most valuable lesson learned in the project, several answered “teamwork.”

“Having multiple sets of hands to help on the car made it a lot easier, and made a better-finished product,” one said. Class members pointed to and complimented their peers by name on their “prep work,” their “blockwork” or sanding skills, even time spent fixing a bumper.

“Everyone worked together,” another suggested. Not everyone agreed, he quickly added, but there were no major arguments, just disagreements over approach that were eventually ironed out.

Identified by the administration as having contributed to the project were 2022-23 students Jacob Grossman, Logan Kulp, Sadey Molyneaux, Aiden Piepszowski, Jeremiah Costello, Ryan Kelly, Paige Mood, Yahfet Olea, Derrick Ralston, Anthony Romero, Ashley Schuler, Mason Simone, Cameron Deshong, Jack Furst, Jeremiah Santiago, Jordin Ziegler, Wyatt Capetola, Alexis McCarthy and Blake Ralston; and 2022 graduates Joshua Pizzo and Adam Grabinski.

For this year’s seniors among those who worked on the vehicle, the presentation served in part as a last rite of passage from the Western Center and their respective high schools. The center’s farewell to them, its 2023 Senior Awards and Recognition night, was scheduled for May 24 in the Upper Perkiomen High auditorium.

We thank the Sanatoga Post for reprint permission.

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