2016-04-21 / News

Automotive program builds good people


Students in the Automotive Program at Grand Blanc High School go into problem-solving mode with a vehicle. Students in the Automotive Program at Grand Blanc High School go into problem-solving mode with a vehicle. GRAND BLANC — When Denny Holt came to Grand Blanc High School in 2011, he wasn’t sure what he had gotten himself into. As the new Automotive Instructor, he had big dreams and goals for the Automotive Program, but was uncertain about what kind of support he would receive.

However, he soon found out the school district was behind him 110 percent. “I told Clarence Garner my first year, if you give me the resources I need, I’ll build the best Automotive Program in the state of Michigan.” And that’s what he has done.

Seven students from the Grand Blanc High School Automotive Program competed in the Skills USA Regional Competition at Delta College. Three of those students earned top awards and a chance to compete at the State Skills USA competition this month.


Students in the Automotive Program work on the rear axle of a vehicle. Students in the Automotive Program work on the rear axle of a vehicle. Dan Johnson, a senior, won 1st place in Automotive “Brake Systems,” senior Jarred Smith won 2nd Place in Automotive “Electrical Systems” and senior Matt McDonald won 1st place Automotive “Overall.”

“Our students performed amazing proving they are among some of the best in the State of Michigan. They work tremendously hard to become great young automotive technicians.”

Holt said in the first year, he worked on getting the program established and learned the ropes. In the second year though, students competed at the MITES (Michigan Industrial and Technology Education Society) competition, doing very well with one student winning 1st place. “That’s when we were like, holy cow, we’ve got a great program here because it’s not just one really smart student doing great; it’s multiple students excelling.”

With that in mind, Holt started to use the students that were excelling to help instruct the newer students in the program. “If you teach, you have to think, not only how does it work, but how do I explain it? And that’s a piece right there that I don’t care who’s working in the shop on cars — teaching people is a whole other world. You don’t only have to be able to do it, you have to be able to understand it well enough and explain it good enough that somebody who, in some cases really has minor knowledge, can understand it.”

Holt said that something he stresses to every student that completes the Automotive Program is state certification. “Even if they aren’t working in shops, just being state certified, that’s on their resume. That’s something a lot of kids don’t get in high school. Some people struggle even when they get out in the field to try to pass certification.”

Besides learning technical skills in the shop, the Automotive Program is about what Holt describes as, “soft skills,” such as professionalism and compromise. According to McDonald, “the Automotive Program has given me a lot of life skills, like if we’re working on the cars out in the shop, we work in groups of 4 because we don’t have 30 cars sitting out there. I might have one way of doing something and someone else might have a different way of doing it. We can’t just sit there and bicker the whole time, we have to compromise.”

The Automotive Program has come a long way since 2011 when Holt arrived to find a floundering program with outdated and old equipment. Thanks to the support of administration, such as Dr. Hammond, Clarence Garner, JP Adams, Art Lied, and Scott Cory, the program continues to grow.

“It’s more than technical skills; it’s the citizenship and classroom atmosphere that we’re building. We’re building good people, not just good workers.” — Compiled by Paula K. Schmidt

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