Jordan automotive program honored for winning national contest
A few weeks after Jordan Vocational High School’s automotive program learned it won a national contest restoring and customizing a classic Ford Mustang, the team was honored during a ceremony Monday.
Representatives from the Quaker State “Best in Class Challenge,” the Muscogee County School District and Columbus Council, along with Jordan students, staff and alumni gathered in the school’s auditorium to celebrate Team Red Jacket.
Jordan principal Amy Wohler told the team, “I hope that you understand and appreciate the significance of what this award means. You put Jordan on the map. You put Columbus on the map. … You made a lot of people proud.”
Wohler thanked Quaker State for providing “this great platform for our students to shine.”
Quaker State project manager Karen Sweeney told the team, “You guys did a fantastic job. The car looks amazing.”
Tommy Pike, owner of Greenville, S.C.-based Tommy Pike Customs and in his second year as a judge in the contest, gushed even more: “The car, honestly, is just head-and-shoulders above anything I’ve seen to this point.”
Pike presented the first-place trophy to the team’s coach, Robert Harris. After introducing the team members, Harris said, “All of them have a very bright future. All they have to do is understand that you can’t quit, no matter what. No matter how hard it gets, you need to understand that it’s in your hands.”
MCSD Superintendent David Lewis praised Harris as “a great instructor” and noted the diversity of the students. “You brought your individual technique and expertise and worked together as a team and collaborated on a car that is absolutely a beautiful example of what teamwork can accomplish,” Lewis said.
Harris echoed the theme.
“Diversity is what that car is,” Harris said. “That car was built from difference.”
Before he read the resolution presented to each member of the team, Columbus Councilor Walker Garrett asserted that this achievement could benefit the city beyond the school and the school district.
“When we’re trying to get the next automotive manufacturer, like Kia or Hyundai, they’ve chosen places because of education,” Garrett said. “You’ve proven that y’all have the ingenuity, the work ethic, the technical experience … that Columbus can be competitive. We can provide the workforce needed for a large automotive manufacturer here. …So this is something that you’ve done not just for yourselves but for this community.”
After the ceremony, Jordan junior Joseph Craigen summed up his feelings as a member of the championship team.
“Even though there were a few doubts within the team and not a lot of people might have looked up to Jordan,” he said, “at the end of the day, we got something that we wanted to do, and we aced it.”
Out of five finalists chosen from 57 schools around the country, Jordan won the grand prize: a $2,500 credit account at AutoZone, a customized took kit valued at $500 and having their 1996 Mustang shown at a Barrett-Jackson auction, billed as the world’s greatest classic car show, April 6-8 in West Palm Beach, Fla., plus being allowed to keep the profit from the sale of their vehicle.
As a finalist, Jordan received a used Ford Mustang, valued at up to $3,000, and $2,000 worth of supplies from AutoZone to restore and customize the vehicle. The other finalists were: Charles B. Aycock High School in Pikeville, N.C.; New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill.; Kearny (N.J.) High School; and Satellite High School in Satellite Beach, Fla.
The contest included online voting from regular folks as well as judging from automotive experts. Sung Kang, an actor, producer and car enthusiast, known for “The Fast and the Furious” movies, served as a judge along with Pike. They used remote video to judge the finalists during the six-week period.
Harris and Tony Woodard are the teachers in Jordan’s 200-student automotive program. Local auto shop owner Mike Young of Safety 1st Collision is the professional consultant, allowed for each team. The students representing Jordan as Team Red Jacket in the contest are Austin Bedsole, Joseph Camacho, Felerick Cofer, Joseph Craigen, Alejandro Gomez, Dante Lummus, Breanna Price, Jacob Van Eram, Jacob Wilton and Trennie West.