Jordan High a semifinalist for national automotive contest

Jordan Vocational High School’s automotive program is a semifinalist in a national competition — and Team Red Jacket needs your help to reach the final round.

Online voting started this week in the Quaker State Best in Class Challenge. United States residents age 13 or older may vote at through Sept. 25.

One vote per email address will be accepted each day, according to the rules.

Jordan is among the 55 semifinalists in one of five markets: Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; northern New Jersey; and Orlando, Fla. Jordan is one of 10 semifinalists competing in the Atlanta market.

The top vote-getter in each market will receive a used Ford Mustang, valued at up to $3,000, and $2,000 worth of supplies from AutoZone to restore and customize their vehicle. The finalists will compete in six weeklong challenges before the winner is announced in late November.

This year’s judges include Tommy Pike, owner of Tommy Pike Customs, and Sung Kang, actor, producer and car enthusiast, known for “The Fast and the Furious” movies. They will judge the finalists through remote video.

The grand prize winner will have their Mustang shown at a Barrett-Jackson auction, billed as the world’s greatest classic car show, April 6-8 in West Palm Beach, Fla., and be allowed to keep the profit from the sale of their vehicle.

Jordan automotive program instructor Robert Harris explained Thursday why he applied in March for his students to compete in the contest.

“I can see the growth that these guys can get out of it,” he said. “… If Jordan High School is chosen to be a finalist for this project, it would be such an awesome, just uplifting part of this program, this school, the community,” he said.

After he told his students that Jordan is a semifinalist, Harris said, “you could see their eyes just lighting up when they were thinking about what they want to do to this car.”

Jordan junior Joseph Craigen, 16, said the students are committed to campaigning for votes through word of mouth and social media.

“We need to make sure people in our community know who we are, know what we do and know how to vote,” he said.

Jordan senior Breanna Price, 17, knows what to tell folks.

“It’s a great program, and we’ve got good people here,” she said. “We’re just good at what we do.”

Jordan principal Amy Wohler described the positive impact Harris and the program’s other instructor, Jordan graduate Tony Woodard, make on their approximately 200 students each year.

“The relationships those guys build with their students and the relationships they have with businesses in town, they’re able to get these kids jobs, and we have a bunch of kids who need a job,” she said.

The program is going through certification this year, so all of the program’s equipment and training will be at the level of industry standards, Wohler said. Harris and Woodard already are certified technicians, she said.

“We have a very diverse group of kids that we work with, and they’re from all walks of life,” Harris said. “So rather than just having the kids that are really awesome and the kids that are just really not so awesome, we have all of that. We have the really awesome kids, and we have those kids that need some help, and we’re always willing to give it to them. They all work together. It’s like a beautiful chemistry there. So if we can keep that moving and we can take that and harness it and put it in this project, I could see just some awesome things happening.”

The program already is awesome for students such as Joseph.

“You get to work on something, hands on, instead of just sitting there and taking notes,” he said. “You get to do something that really applies to the real world and life.”

Just ask Breanna, whom Harris called the most advanced of approximately 10 females in the program.

“It’s taught me a lot of things,” she said. “So when I got stuck on the side of the road somewhere, I know how to change my tires or fix my oil, or if something’s broken I know what to do.”

If she doesn’t become a forensic photographer, Breanna said, she might open an auto shop with her father.

“I think she actually will one day,” Harris said. “She enjoys coming in and telling me about her experiences working with her dad. She makes sure she tells me what she had to fix over the weekend.”

Students in Jordan’s automotive program have gone on to work with companies such as Nissan, Kia and Pratt & Whitney as well as local businesses and their own businesses, Wohler and Harris said.

“The students are not just working on cars,” Harris said. “We teach them a lot about life skills, interviewing skills. We help them go further than just being an automotive technician. We want these students to further their education in whatever ways they can, whether it’s going straight into the job force or going to college or going to the military.”

Regardless of whether Team Red Jacket wins a Mustang, the school will accept donated vehicles and parts to benefit the automotive program, especially if they are in working condition, Harris said.

The students Harris and Woodard selected to represent Jordan as Team Red Jacket in the contest are Evan Barefield, Jordan Battles, Austin Bedsole, Joseph Camacho, Joseph Craigen, Alejandro Gomez, Dante Lummus, Breanna Price, Jacob Van Eram, Jacob Wilton and Trennie West.