Troy HS students get rare skill trades opportunity

TROY, Mich. (WXYZ) - In November, Troy High School unveiled a brand-new auto technology lab to inspire students.

A few months into the new school year and it’s proving its worth.

“It’s nice knowing what you want to do beforehand,” said Jacob Exum, a junior who is already working part-time at Suburban Showcase in Troy. “I know I’m going to be successful when I get out of high school because I’m already doing what I want to do.”

Exum is one of the students who has already become ASE certified while taking classes at Troy High. He’s always wanted to work on cars, now he’s getting that chance.

The program has been such a success they’re drawing attention from schools across the country.

The program at Troy High school is already years ahead of schedule — originally the principal, Remo Roncone, was faced with a dilemma: shutdown the lab like many other schools, or try to turn it around. At that point students were dealing with aging tools, a tired program and a room that had more oil in it’s carpets than some of the car parts. Instead of giving up the District doubled-down decided to attempt to get the program ASE certified, and to grow it year-to-year.

“The plan has already grown,” said Roncone, “but I think the timeline has also shrunk.”

That growing plan is tied to sponsors who heard about Troy High School’s plan. David Easterbrook, whose daughter went to Troy High, was a fixture at the school with his charity after his daughter’s death due to a drunk driver days before her graduation. The charity: Ashley’s Dream, and his company AME, committed to the program and within a year had opened a fully remodeled lab that is the envy of just about every high school auto student in the state.

Rousseau Metal stepped up to donate cabinetry, imBrand provided graphics and signs, the Suburban Collection donated new lab coats and tools, while Kirchoff Automotive, GM and others partnered too.

“I feel like it’s a win-win for everyone,” said Roncone. “Obviously, I think it’s the biggest win for our school and our students, but I feel like these companies are also in a position to reap the benefit as our students train and enter the field ready to work.”

Exum is living proof of that — he’s hardly alone, according to his teacher Dustin Warner many of the students are getting a shot at jobs while still attending class.

Warner, who worked as an auto tech while he went to college to become a teacher, said it’s helpful for him because they bring extra knowledge from an ever-changing industry back to his classroom. He noted that it’s rewarding because teachers rarely see the returns on their work so quickly.

“Other teachers may know what their impact is, but for me I actually get to see that.”

The goal is to train students for trade skill jobs. Eventually Principal Roncone is hoping that other similar labs can be added to the school’s curriculum — but in the meantime it gives students a chance to test the water of at least one line of work before they decide what type of career path they may aim for.

While not all students will become mechanics, it also opens the possibility for students to have a greater base of knowledge for other STEM careers such as engineering.

Some students will even be meeting industry leaders this week as the school’s auto program is sponsoring this year’s North American International Auto Show’s ‘Tweet Up’ event.

“The glimmer is in their eyes,” said Roncone. “The excitement they have towards going to school and wanting to be a part of this program is great. They come in early, stay late — to me that’s the true test.”

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