Get online and support your local high school team.

No, it is not a football team. It’s Alexander High School’s automotive technology program — and they need everyone to rally around and cast their vote.

Douglas County can show support for Alexander High School’s next generation of auto technicians by casting votes at http://www.popularmechanics.com/promotions/news/a17067/best-in-class-challenge-atlanta/.

From now through Sept. 27, Alexander High is charged with securing as many votes as possible to become a finalist. Only one of the six Atlanta-area schools will move on to participate in the six-week competition against top schools from four other major cities — Chicago, Orlando, Charlotte, and Northern New Jersey.

“This gives our students some exposure,” said automotive technology instructor Charlie Cornell, who has been in the classroom for 19 years, following a 20-year career in the automotive industry.

If the school’s team receives enough votes to win on this level, the automotive class will be given a $3,000 car to repair “from start to finish — anything it needs,” said Cornell. “When completed, the car will be sold at auction and the school will receive the proceeds.”

Alexander High School’s automotive education program was selected to compete with five other teams in Georgia for Quaker State’s “Best in Class Challenge,” an automotive education program featuring auto shop classes from across the United States restoring, tuning and customizing a pre-owned car into a showroom ready, creative representative from their school.

Alexander High School is now the only high school in the county to offer automotive technology classes, and it such a popular class, Cornell teaches eight full periods each day. He has 115 both male and female students who have signed up to learn the high-tech industry of automotive repair.

“We need 65,000 trained technicians that can diagnose problems,” said Cornell. “The shade tree mechanic is gone — a thing of the past. Everything is so skilled you have to understand chemistry, physics. There is so much technology you have to learn — you have to be technically trained.”

Not only do students get an opportunity to develop a skill they love, there is a great demand for them in the workplace, where high-paying careers in the industry await them. And many of them will walk out of high school with not only a diploma, but an ASE certificate as well.

Alexander High School Assistant Principal Stephen Beatty explained that a student a student can walk out of school with a diploma and ASE certification and be employable. He said that students are not only trained in a highly technical industry, but they learn “soft skills” such as good behavior, good attendance, being punctual and responsible.

“They are learning responsibility to live in a real world,” said Beatty.

“I have two block classes of advanced students that are working to complete the program,” said Cornell. “After they have completed three class programs, they are allowed to test out of the program. With successful completion, they will receive an ASE certificate that will allow them to place higher in technical school classes and will help in applications into the automotive field.”

The automotive industry is wide-open with career opportunities, he said.

“There are so many jobs in a dealership,” said Cornell, “that you don’t even have to turn a wrench.”

Many of his students will go onto a technical college to earn a degree, but a number will go onto a four-year college, he said. A number of his students are also in ROTC.

“The number one technical school is the U.S. military,” Cornell said. “We have a number of students interested in the military and when they get out, they’ll get a job.”

He said that there are countless opportunities in the high-tech automotive field today on many different levels.

“Colleges want top-notch kids to come into their program.  A lot of these students will go to college,” said Cornell. “They have a high GPA and many of them will most likely end up in the industry.”

Contact Liz Marino by email at liz@douglascountysentinel.com or by phone at 770-942-6571 ext. 233.

© 2015 Douglas County Sentinel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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