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By C. Jayden Smith

The San Clemente Automotive Technology Partnership Academy, or Auto Academy, at San Clemente High School will once again host a car show on Friday, April 29, from 5-8 p.m. on campus.

A spectrum of different cars is expected to be at the show, including newer imports, European vehicles, and classics. At the end, the Academy will present a “Vendors’ Choice” and “Student Choice” award for multiple categories.

The Meet the Industry and Car Show has not occurred for multiple years, and the return of the car industry’s presence in the event marks a step back toward tradition.

Industry professionals were initially meant to attend, speak to students, and take a look at their workshop and what the students are working on, according to Auto Academy instructor Sean Selff, who has worked with the program for about three years.

In the time leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected the Academy’s ability to put on the event, the industry portion of the show lessened. Selff said the Academy has worked to bring back the old style.

“What we brought back this year is (at least four) speakers coming up to speak to students about different opportunities, jobs, how their pathway(s) went from high school all the way through (their) job career paths, and opportunities in the automotive industry, not just as technicians but in the industry in general,” he said.

Whether through talking about how to succeed in the industry, or pathways through junior or community colleges, or apart from the “general dealership direction,” students will be able to see their options.

“These people will all be down there to speak on behalf of the community and (about) opportunities within the San Clemente community, so students don’t think you have to leave the community to have great opportunities,” Selff added.

The Auto Academy is a three-year program for students in grades 10-12, and includes instructors and advisors who hope to give students—50% of whom are at-risk—another avenue in which to view life after high school.

At the event, students will have the opportunity to interact with professionals from various local car shops and dealerships, such as Pep Boys, O’Reilly Auto Parts, and Tuttle-Click Ford.

The work to restore such partnerships with the industry has taken significant effort and brainstorming over the past two years.

Multiple advisory boards have met to review the Academy’s direction and to ensure that the program meets industry standards and prepares students, knowledge- and skill-wise, for what the industry wants them to possess after graduation.

Selff said local Toyota dealerships, Tuttle-Click Ford, Saddleback College’s automotive academy, and South OC Cars and Coffee contribute by donating food, providing shirts, as well as general advice and support.

The students are excited to attend and are looking forward to the unveiling of a 1966 Plymouth Barracuda that the Academy has worked on since last year. The Class of 2021 graduates began the project but were unable to finish because of factors out of their control.

“The Class of ’22, this year’s graduating class, has really helped work on this car a lot, getting it to the finishing stages, (which included) rebuilding the engine again,” Selff said.

The project is 90% completed, but the students have been enthusiastic about showing off the Barracuda in addition to all the other projects on which they they have worked.

The Auto Academy serves three purposes, Selff said: to give students a reason to attend school, hands-on skills, and opportunities for those who want to pursue career paths such as engineering to see their field translate into real-life applications.

Once students see that they do need English, math, and STEM skills to succeed in the industry, they can be more motivated to raise their grades and work toward graduating.

“We’re giving them a reason to really be at school and something enjoyable at school to do, to find self-confidence, and they get to work together as teams,” Selff added.

There is also significant interaction between the Academy and the high school’s engineering program, allowing students to learn and see both sides.

All cars are welcome to be presented at Friday’s show.

More information about the Auto Academy can be found at sctritons.com/auto.

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