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By Lou Leto, For the San Clemente Times

Here’s a rhetorical question: when your vehicle breaks down or just needs servicing, whom are you going to call?

We are fortunate to have an Auto Academy at San Clemente High School. Within this program, more than half of the academy seniors have studied and passed the tests to receive valuable ASE certifications before graduation, which enables them to enter the workforce to make greater than minimum wage. With employers lining up to hire them. Yet the demand for these jobs exceeds the supply. There are solutions, and our students just experienced a field trip that offered awareness, encouragement, and inspiration for their future. While having fun.

The NHRA Youth & Education Services (YES) Program, founded in 1989, is the only full-time education program in motorsports that provides quality programs and activities for schools and youth organizations nationwide. The YES Program focuses on the importance of goals and continued education, while allowing students to learn about various career opportunities. This field trip showed students how STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is applied to both real-world situations and NHRA Racing, which they had the opportunity to see live at the track during the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona.

Students of the San Clemente High School Auto Academy recently met with industry professionals during an Industry Night and Car Show in 2018. Photo: FIle/Courtesy of Lou Leto
Students of the San Clemente High School Auto Academy recently met with industry professionals during an Industry Night and Car Show in 2018. Photo: FIle/Courtesy of Lou Leto

The five dozen SCHS students who earned their way to the YES day joined the thousands of other students from as far away as Barstow to listen to a speakers’ panel of accomplished individuals with successful careers that was structured to show and encourage career paths. After this presentation, the students were able to wander the grounds to talk to the professional race teams and watch the competition on the track. To encourage his students to be involved, our Auto Academy instructor, Warren Caesar, had given them assignments to interview and photograph the various teams. The students will have an opportunity to review their findings and discuss future possibilities.

While there will be a regime change at the end of this school year as Mr. Caesar retires, the search is underway for a qualified replacement. Not resting, Caesar is still looking for a few more internships that will place his students in auto dealerships or independent repair shops during this summer. If you would like to be involved or can recommend a shop or company, contact Warren Caesar at

If you don’t have a shop, or know of one, then plan to come out to support our Auto Academy students during their next annual Car Show and open house on April 26, from 5-7 p.m.

Perhaps your next vehicle issue might be solved by a Triton.

With a passion and enthusiasm for all things automotive and performance, Lou Leto applies his expertise to mentor individuals. Lou devotes many volunteer hours to support organizations and events in San Clemente, and is a longtime member of the Auto Academy Advisory Committee. City Council recognized his efforts and placed his name on the San Clemente Wall of Recognition.

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