Training center teaches at-risk youth car repair, life skills
DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. (WSVN) -- Hundreds of disadvantaged South Florida teens and young adults are learning life management skills, starting under the hood.
Kewuan Jones, a graduate of the Youth Automotive Training Center in Deerfield Beach, said working in a mechanic shop has been a life-saver. "I love it; I come to work happy every day," he said. "This is a passion for me. Everybody's going, 'You're always smiling,' this and that, and that's who I am now. I want to stay like this."
Jones admitted he's not proud of his past. "With the trouble I was going through at home... wrong crowd... petty problems," he said. "I always wanted to do better... This is my opportunity."
Jones applied to YATC in the summer of 2010 and was accepted. He graduated in May 2011, and in that 9-month period, he said the center provided preventative maintenance on his life.
The 9-month program, created by automotive legend Jim Moran in 1984, is open to applicants between 16 and 21 years old. Its Monday-to-Friday class curriculum lasts from September to late May.
Class size is limited to 30 students who rotate from auto shop to auto tech, as well as a more traditional course in a classroom setting. Students also have the opportunity to get their GED.
The center has graduated 600 students, with 90 percent of them turning their learning experience in the program into successful careers, according to YATC officials.
Executive director Terry Routley said the center's mission is to help at-risk or disadvantaged youth switch gears. "What they're getting out of this program, really, is self-confidence, self-assurance, self-esteem that they've never had," he said. "Nobody's ... told them that they're worth anything, so that's really, at the end of the nine months, what we've given them."
The school is tuition-free and ready to embrace and help every student in all aspects of life. Routley said applicants often ask if there's a catch. "There's no catch," he said. "Mr. Moran, who started this program, [said] the whole idea was to give back to the community, and he identified with this population that was disadvantaged, 16 to 21-year-olds, male, female, that was struggling."
Rotley said he teases Jones by pointing out he went from riding in police cars to fixing them. Jones said his motto for life is, "The good guy finishes last, but he lasts."
If you know of someone whom you would like to apply to the program or are interested in partnering with the program and possibly provide job opportunities, log on to http://www.yatc.org/.
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