Prairie Ridge High auto shop students fix cars for charity

  • Prairie Ridge High School advanced auto shop students repaired a Jeep to donate to a local family in need for Willow Creek Community Church's C.A.R.S. Ministry.

    Prairie Ridge High School advanced auto shop students repaired a Jeep to donate to a local family in need for Willow Creek Community Church's C.A.R.S. Ministry. Courtesy of Crystal Lake High School District 155

  • Prairie Ridge High School's advanced auto shop students, from left, Zack Bloomfield, Vin Dang and Daniel Bruce, work on a Jeep that will be donated to a family in need.

    Prairie Ridge High School's advanced auto shop students, from left, Zack Bloomfield, Vin Dang and Daniel Bruce, work on a Jeep that will be donated to a family in need. Courtesy of Crystal Lake High School District 155

 
 
Posted1/19/2018 5:40 AM

Prairie Ridge High School's advanced auto shop students are fixing cars to help families in need through a partnership with a local charity.

Students in the Autos 2 class at the Crystal Lake school spent four weeks repairing a 2002 Jeep Cherokee that was recently donated to the school by a community member.

 

They rotated and balanced the tires, checked the brakes, turned the rotors, and flushed and changed all the fluids, which fixed an earlier transmission problem.

"That's not something high school students do every day," said Matt Hardt, auto teacher.

The Jeep was donated this week to South Barrington-based Willow Creek Community Church's C.A.R.S. Ministry, which provides reliable transportation to families in need.

"This is the first of hopefully many cars that get sent to the C.A.R.S. Ministry," said Kevin Koeppen, Prairie Ridge industry and career division leader. "It's a fun, interesting way to show kids how to give back to our community. Our kids are learning problem-solving skills, diagnostic skills."

Students also learn to appreciate the valuable function auto mechanics serve in society, he added.

"When I heard about the project I was actually really excited because it was something I could do that would help out another person and apply my skill to," student Daniel Bruce said.

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Prairie Ridge's automotive program has been around more than 20 years. Typically, students practice their skills on cars of fellow students or teachers who need minor work done.

Repairing cars for charity is new this year. Of the 75 students in the program, only 18 advanced-level students are fixing cars for the ministry.

"(We) try to give our kids as many real world applications as possible," Koeppen said. "I thought it would be a perfect fit. It shows our students that they are doing more than just turning wrenches. They are helping community members support themselves."

Students learn to interact with car owners and diagnose problems just like professional mechanics. Customers then buy the needed parts and students perform whatever repairs can be done within the school's budget and their expertise.

The school recently received a $37,000 donation in parts from Motorwerks in South Barrington. Its remaining mechanical equipment was purchased through school budgets or grants.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Our students are working on industry-standard equipment," Koeppen said. "We can't do this without community support and community donations. After we've done everything that we can, we donate (the car) to the ministry and they take care of any major repairs. It's a nice partnership. They put the finishing touches on it before it gets back on the road."

Repaired cars either are given to a community member in need of transportation or sold at auction so the ministry can purchase auto parts for other cars with the proceeds.

Prairie Ridge students will be working on two more cars for the ministry -- a minivan and a truck.

People donating cars can get a letter to claim tax deductions, Koeppen said.

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