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Burbank High students polish up their rides

High school auto mechanic program shines light on the importance of trade classes.

May 08, 2012|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
  • Alonso Sicairos, 16, left, and Dan Mansour, 16, work on the body frame of a Cobra Shelby at Burbank High School on Tuesday. Burbank High School students from the auto shop program will hold their first classic car show fundraiser this Saturday.
Alonso Sicairos, 16, left, and Dan Mansour, 16, work on… (Cheryl A. Guerrero…)

A gaggle of oil-spattered students stood beneath a raised Acura Integra in the auto shop at Burbank High School Tuesday, reaching their hands into its undercarriage.

“The old transmission had a hole in it, so we are replacing it with another one from a scrapped car,” 16-year-old Thomas Wee said.

Across the way, another group of students focused on a Cobra kit car that was delivered in pieces and is being assembled bit by bit. Minutes later, automotive technology teacher Manolo Lopez pulled into the garage behind the wheel of a blue Hudson Commodore 8, owned by the actress Patricia Arquette and in need of some electrical work.

“It is one of the few careers you can’t outsource,” Lopez said of auto mechanics. “In Los Angeles, especially, everyone has a car or two. It is a necessary service that has to be provided.”

On Saturday, the student mechanics will put their work on display when the Burbank High School auto shop hosts its first car show, meant to give owners a chance to show off their rides while also raising money for the program.

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The show, which will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., will take place in the school parking lot off of Glenoaks Boulevard. Admission is free, although there is a $10 fee for car entries. Jordan Schulze, 17 — a third-year automotive technology student who has played a lead role in organizing the event — said that he and his fellow car junkies are hoping to draw at least 75 vehicles.

Jordan estimates he spend as many as 25 hours a week in the school auto shop, much of it after school and on the weekends. He is the proud owner of a 1968 Camaro.

“It’s always nice to know how stuff works, even if you are not going to work on your own car,” Jordan said. “You won’t get ripped off places, you know what you are talking about.”

Lopez said he currently has 42 students enrolled in his Los Angeles County Regional Occupational Program, which provides students with technical skills that in some cases can allow them to jump directly into the work force. Two current students are already working at Community Chevrolet on Olive Avenue, he said.

“The technology keeps growing,” Lopez said. “There is a lot of graying of the work force. Everybody I have talked to in the industry — they need young people to come in.”

Trade classes are more important than ever, he added. The money generated by the fundraiser will be spent on tools, parts and field trips, he said.

“People are realizing that you can’t download a new roof to your house,” Lopez said. “You can’t download a new sink when it backs up. The trades are relevant, and they are very well paid.”

Javier Manzano, 18, credited the auto technology occupational program for keeping him engaged with school.

“If you want to work on mechanical skills, this is the perfect class to take,” Manzano said. “Some people like to get dirty, some don’t. I guess we are the people who like to get dirty.”

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