Among the best FHS automotive technology class in the country


The clatter of metal and the whistle of tires echoed in the small garage.

Six vehicles are awaiting diagnostic tests or repairs.

Tucked away in the back annex of Fauquier High School, students learn basic mechanical skills on electrical systems, brakes, emission equipment and more in two automotive technology courses.

This semester, 15 students from Liberty, Kettle Run and Fauquier High Schools are taking the three-hour electives of the program, which ranks among the best in the country.

This Thursday afternoon, Automotive Technology I students rotate every 15 minutes to a different given vehicle as they learn to diagnose engine and electrical problems.

“I took the course to follow my dad, who is a tow truck driver,” said Alyssa Junior Kettle Run, the only student. “His work interests me.

His impression of the course?

“It’s a very dirty job,” she says.

But, Alyssa has already put her new skills into practice.

“One day I changed all the spark plugs in (my dad’s) tow truck and he was very happy,” she said.

Automotive Technology II students split into teams to perform frontal alignment, muffler repairs, and drivetrain work on the vehicles of three teachers.

The Auto II course runs year-round, providing advanced skills to students seeking entry-level work after graduation or acceptance into trade schools.

The course also prepares students for certification and encourages participation in national and national competitions for scholarship money.

Five students from Fauquier high school became state champions in the Skills United States automotive technology competitions.

In 2013, FHS senior Alexandra Wolfe became the first woman in Virginia to win the State SkillsUSA competition before advancing to the national competition.

Last year FHS students David Manzella and Michael Stevens finished fifth nationally in the Ford / AAA Student Auto Skills competition. In 2013 Samuel Eleazer and Matthew Jacobs took second place.

FHS automotive technology professor Scott Freeman credits the success of the program to his students.

“We have children who come here with a willingness to learn, ready to make sacrifices,” Freeman said. “These kids don’t come home and play video games; they go home and study. They make sacrifices to be successful. These are characteristics that employers look for as well.

The accredited The course combines practical work with classroom theory and online lessons.

Abram Baer, ​​senior at Kettle Run, said the Auto II class taught him technical skills and to “look and think before you act”.

Anthony Ennis, another senior at KRHS, hopes to attend the Universal Technical Institute after graduation.

“I like being able to do something, not sit behind a desk,” said Anthony.

The course also teaches students work preparation, including communication, teamwork, and how to dress and act professionally, according to Freeman.

“If you work in a dealership, you have a service manager, a service writer, a parts department, a technician and the customer, and whatever needs to be in place to fix the car,” he said. he declares.

Mr. Freeman began teaching 15 years ago after a long career as a mechanic with dealerships in Warrenton and N. Virginia.

His alumni work at Jim Harris GMC Buick, Warrenton Auto Service, Warrenton Toyota and other local businesses.

A student who completes the automotive technology course could earn $ 10 to $ 15 an hour in an entry-level position after graduation.

Depending on skills, experience and vehicles, auto mechanics can earn up to $ 100,000 per year, Freeman said.

“I always tell kids that the best service you can give to everyone is like you’re never there,” Freeman said. “If you haven’t interrupted the flow of that person’s day, you’ve done your job.”

Former student Tyler Bradfield, 24, said the course helped him find a job with Jim Harris GMC Buick in Warrenton right out of high school in 2010.

“I’ve always loved working on cars, and taking this class has taken me to the next step in making it a career,” said Bradfield.

Mr. Freeman “is a good teacher,” he added. “You don’t find a lot of teachers who have worked (in the field). He knows how to teach you and prepare you for a career as a mechanic.

“This program will teach you a lot to pull yourself into a higher position. ”

Mr Freeman said he tries to keep his courses relevant by talking to technicians in the field, taking more than 100 hours of certified training per year and giving lessons in advanced vehicle technology.

Norman Bower, second generation owner of Warrenton Auto Service, recently hired an FHS student to graduate from the program.

“We’re always on the lookout for young talent, and that’s where it starts, in high school,” Bower said. “The future is people who learn to diagnose problems. . . if a person wants to get into this field and do well.

Eric Kaase, 48, said the FHS automotive technology course he took in the 1980s launched his career

Mr. Kaase manages 18 mechanics as a service manager at Country Chevrolet, the county’s largest auto dealership.

“These guys are working hard. They collaborate with each other, ”he said. “It’s not something you can take lightly. You either have to be full or not. These guys are going to spend an average of $ 3,500 today on a toolkit. You’re going to have $ 10-15,000 wrapped up in a tool set, where you can make money. . . to be truly effective and efficient.

A recent high school graduate could make $ 15 an hour working full time at Country Chevrolet, he added.

FHS also offers auto body repair courses.

Schools in Prince William County and Fairfax County have similar automotive technology courses.

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Deana N. Guinn

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