celebrate education - brought to you by the amarillo globe-news

Spark of inspiration

Students forge skills

By Sean Thomas

It is a bridge between the classroom and gainful employment.

Amarillo officials hope a new internship program will get technically trained, skilled workers in the door and working on city vehicles.

This week, 21 students from Amarillo Independent School District will start work on the city's fleet of vehicles as part of a 16-week program to show students the array of technical jobs available with the city.

Karyn Pierce, AISD career and technology coordinator, said the city and AISD have been in discussions since August. Pierce said the program stems from the city's critical need to fill auto technology positions and the opportunity to expose students to possible career paths.

Students will be teamed up with mentors and work two or three two-hour shifts each week in the three fleet departments - municipal garage, transit and fire department. Marvin Polanco, a 17-year-old senior at Palo Duro High School, is most excited about working in the fire department.

"It just seems like there is more things to do on a fire truck than on normal trucks," Polanco said.

There actually are more systems on a fire truck, said Danny Dwight, AFD fleet administrator, making qualified mechanics much more difficult to find.

"This is a good starting place to alleviate that problem," Dwight said. "The technology changes so fast and we are struggling to keep up. We can expose these kids to the current technology so they can be more aware of it."

While the program is designed to get students interested in job opportunities with the city, some students could make better money working for private automotive repair shops. According to the city's human resource department, the students, if hired straight out of high school, would start as a trainee at about $8 or $9 an hour. According to area auto shops, graduating students could make $9 to $10 an hour.

Irvin Ramirez, 17, started auto technology education two years ago and said he got involved because the work could provide a good future.

"It's too early to tell if this is what I want do with the rest of my life," he said. "It's a start."

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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