NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The demand for auto mechanics is growing nationally.
One metro school system is acquiring new students from everywhere — even internationally. The celebrated Automotive Technology program in the North Kansas City Schools district is using cars to bring people closer together, proof that the language of cars is universal.
They came to the United States for a better life and a rich education. When North Kansas City Schools leaders opened their Auto Tech program in 1981, they might not have imagined Dante Picon-Vargas and Aldin Mehinovic, who are both high school seniors.
Both students left less than perfect situations in Mexico and Bosnia and Herzegovina, respectively, as their families sought better possibilities in the U.S. Both teenagers families are in the process of seeking American citizenship through the proper channels.
Both teens left their native lands within the past two years.
Vargas and his loved ones departed a violent place in Mexico City, where violent crime rates are high.
Mehinovich said he’s glad to look back on a crumbling economy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the nation formerly known as Yugoslavia, because their parents sought a better life for their children.
“The American Dream is to be able to raise a family and have a nice life and to be able to actually afford something. My country is lovely, but we don`t have the best economical situation right now,” 16-year-old Mehinovich said. “I hope it gets better there.”
“I want to work in a workshop and maybe own my own shop,” Vargas said. “To be honest, I didn’t know anything about cars, but this class has taught me a lot and to prepare for this.”
In the short time he’s been in North Kansas City, Vargas has been profiled by Tomorrow’s Technician Magazine. It’s a credit to his drive to pass exams while learning to speak English.
Auto Tech instructors said Vargas continues to work tirelessly at mastering a second language, in addition to the Spanish he’s already learned.
Jack Stow is the instructor for North Kansas City’s auto tech program, where hundreds of students have learned job-ready skills during their high school years.
Many of Stow’s former students are currently working at metro auto repair shops as successful certified mechanics. Mehinovic and Vargas will join the list of graduates in the coming spring.
North Kansas City Schools Auto Tech program has a high graduation rate, and college credits are offered for students who are interested in moving on to higher education.
“There`s a need in this industry. Bar none,” Stow told FOX4. “(Mehinovich and Vargas) have such a desire to sit down, and I`m not that interesting of a guy, but they hang on every word. Those guys do it and it bleeds over into everybody else. Those guys do it and they don`t even realize they`re doing it.”
The training is already paying off, too. Vargas said when his family minivan broke down about a year ago, he and his dad did the repairs themselves, using skills Dante learned in this garage.
Soon, he’ll use that training to repair cars as his dream job becomes a reality.