Arlington ISD auto body shop offers students real-life experience

Students in Arlington are gaining real-life experience in an auto body shop. The district’s state-of-the-art facility is setting them up for a potential career in the field.

Auto shops typically will not hire anyone under 18, so it’s tough for students to get that experience before they graduate. Arlington ISD’s Dan Dipert Career and Technical Center is changing that.

Upper-class students come from across the district to work in the auto body shop.

"We’re learning about maintenance like oil changes and tire rotations," said Michelle Buser, an Arlington ISD junior.

Buser wants to be a mechanic in the military.

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"One time we learned how to do an alignment, which was really cool. And the last class we learned how to mount and dismount tires. It’s really helpful. I feel like we could work at a tire shop," she said.

Automotive instructor Jamal Harvey said there is a need for auto technicians in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Under Harvey’s instruction, the students begin by learning the basics and leave as entry-level technicians ready to work.

"Texas Workforce Commission has started a program where they will take our students, send them to dealerships, and when the fall semester starts, they will pay for them to go to TCC or Dallas County Community College," he said.

"It’s a nice weight off your shoulders knowing you have something to fall back onto right away after high school. There’s no stress or hassle. You can go get a good paying job and support yourself right out of high school," said junior Alex Hernandez.

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The center opened in 2017 and within a couple of years formed a partnership with the district’s transportation department, allowing the students to work on vehicles from the Arlington ISD fleet.

"It prepares you for the future. For instance, if you’re going on a trip and your car stops, you know what to do. You know who to call. It prepares you for any worst-case scenario for the car or vehicle," said George Ghannoum, a senior.

The program continues to grow and has become a model for other districts.

"It is about these kids and about how to provide a better way of life for them," Harvey said. "I tell the kids we give you the opportunity. It is up to you to do something with it."

And, Arlington ISD has more money to invest in the program. It received a state grant late last year of more than $115,000 to buy more equipment.