MEXICO – Dan Richard and Jerry Pelletier love what they do – teaching high school students the fine art of repairing cars.

Perhaps that’s why so many have signed up for the newly offered vocational course in automotive technology at the Region 9 School of Applied Technology.

“I’ve got some very brilliant kids,” said Richard, the long-time owner of Dan’s Automotive Repairs and Sales in Rumford, and now also the instructor of the new program. “If they don’t go into automotive technology, they will be able to work on their own cars and save some money.”

Jerry Pelletier, a former diversified occupations instructor at Region 9 and employee of several former auto dealerships in the area, loves his new job and the students.

“I really enjoy working with the students and getting them into the real world,” he said.

James Harvell, a senior from Dirigo High School, is one of them.

“Cars will always be around. This program gives me the opportunity to get certified in several things,” said the student who plans to attend Central Maine Community College in the fall to take automotive courses.

He and Nori Hashimoto, a senior at Mountain Valley High School, were learning to mount tires.

Hashimoto may major in automotives when he attends Universal Technical Institute, then work with his father, Toshio, at his auto repair business in Rumford. Or he may major in something else at the Boston school. He’s not sure yet. But both he and Harvell, and the other students, like the hands-on experiences they are getting.

Tara Dennis, a senior at Mountain Valley High School, may not major in automotives when she attends the community college, but she knows what she is learning will help her.

“I learn something new every day,” she said as she and fellow student, TJ Crockett, a senior at Dirigo High School, work on balancing tires.

Crockett plans to major in the culinary arts at Washington County Community College in Calais in the fall. But he likes tinkering on engines.

“This will help me with my car and my parent’s car,” he said.

Richard’s automotive technology classes is a two-year program that could serve as a solid basis for taking the automotive excellence exam.

Richard, 45, was a student at Region 9 many years ago where he learned carpentry skills he still uses today.

He loves his instruction job so much that he has returned to college to earn an education degree.

During the first year of the program, students learn automotive safety, job skills, and a variety of car components, including brakes and the electrical system. Year two goes into greater depth, ending with experience in manual and four-wheel drive drive lines.

Region 9 director Brenda Gammon said the program has taken off.

“The students really want to be there,” she said.

Plans are underway to offer adult education classes in basic automotive skills, such as oil and tire changes, as well as more in-depth instruction.

Adult education director, Nancy Allen, said some classes will likely be offered during the autumn 2009 term.

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