- Associated Press - Sunday, March 1, 2015

ANGOON, Alaska (AP) - For almost the last 20 years, Angoon High School’s auto shop has been used, mostly, for storage. Tools once used for the class disappeared.

But this January, the school got a Department of Education and Early Development Perkins grant, intended for career and technical education, and started a trial program in two classes: intro to automotive, and small engine and outboard repair. Both are taught by instructor Jared Williams.

The five students in the automotive class - five was the limit for this semester - all want to use the knowledge they gain to fix the broken down cars in their lives.

“I want to fix my own car, when I get it,” said Forrest Dean Braley Jr. So do Duncan O’Brien and Ivanette Johnson.

It also wouldn’t hurt to have a skill that’s always in demand, Williams said.

“The big problem around here is having a trade you can go out and make some money with,” he said.

“It’s the first time we’ve had a career track for the university in auto mechanics and mining mechanics,” said Principal Jim Parkin. (The school offers an online course called “Intro to Mining.”)

The automotive class started off in January with the basics, learning about safety and tool identification. But in order to identify tools, they have to have them. Sometimes the kids bring tools in. Williams has been bringing his personal tools, though most of them are in the Lower 48. He was talking about the donations they’ve received when, as if on cue, Parkin brought in a box of tools just donated by Mike Bell of Freeman Bell, a company based in Juneau.

“This is awesome,” Williams said, looking through the box. Kids pulled out tools and examined them.

“There’s no shortage of work around here,” Williams said. The class has lined up cars to fix for whatever amount the owner decides to donate, among them those belonging to mobility-impaired family members of the kids in class.

They’re part of the same series of courses as the mining class and an environmental science class they’ll offer next year. All those courses are tied to the University of Alaska’s mining mechanic certification, said Parkin, and earn their students three college credits per semester, along with half a high school credit. Hecla Mining Company is paying for the mining class.

Williams hopes to offer the class over a full school year next year, so students will be able to get more time in the lab, working on cars, and will be able to do more intensive work. They have the class for an hour each day, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.; at UAS, it’s ten hours a week, he said.

“I’ve been in the industry all my life, but I’ve never taught. It’s interesting. It’s tough. But just in the four or five weeks we’ve had the class… now they’re excited and motivated to get the book work done to go out in the lab. Hopefully they’ll get enough out of it where they can use it after school,” Williams said. “If the kids come out of here knowing how to fix this stuff, it cleans up the town and helps people move around. It’s a win/win.”

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