Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Automotive Youth Educational System Flourishes

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Automotive Youth Educational System Flourishes

Article excerpt

Don Gray knew what he was doing back in 1995 when he tapped Oklahoma City's Francis Tuttle Vocational Technical Center for the pilot program of a radical approach to education -- get all participants, including parents, involved early and ensure that the curriculum meets the goal of turning out employable students.

What Gray and Francis Tuttle officials started was the General Motors Youth Educational System designed to take kids from first glimmer of interest all the way through a two-year college and into a high-quality job at an auto dealership.

Not only has that program survived, it has flourished and now is embraced by Toyota Motor Sales USA, DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen USA, speading into 150 schools in 26 states. Now, it's known as the Automotive Youth Education System and is operated by a not-for- profit foundation that Gray heads.

When he started the program here four years ago, Gray's goal was to establish 10 pilot schools to prove the concept and idea of John F. Smith Jr., GM's chairman and chief executive. His biggest problem: finding 10 schools "that aren't in Oklahoma, but are just as good as Oklahoma schools," Gray said.

After Francis Tuttle Vo-Tech Center got started, Gray called upon the Moore-Norman Technology Center, Great Plains Vo-Tech in Lawton and Tulsa County Technology Center as his next three schools.

Recognizing a good thing when they have it, the foundation's board has gone one step further by electing Kay Martin, Francis Tuttle superintendent, to its board. For four years, she has served on an advisory board. Now her voice will be heard from the inner circle.

"It's an exciting opportunity," she said. "Since I'm the only grass-roots educator on the board, I will be able to bring the perspective of the classroom teacher to the board."

From the beginning, when Smith broached the subject with the National Auto Dealers Association, which totally embraced it and is now a co-sponsor, the idea has been to fill the need for trained technicians at the dealership level.

It has worked.

"We have rigid requirements," said Martin. "We require a strong commitment from not only the students but also from the parents. Kids who want to be in this program give up a lot, but they gain a lot, too."

There are now 11 students enrolled at Francis Tuttle, up from two the first year. …

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