“RACE” Program Drives Passion for Careers in Automotive Industry

Daytona Everett

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Rancho Mirage High School students judged more than a dozen local vintage or classic cars at school on Tuesday as a part of the first-ever “RACE” auto show. RACE, or Rattler Automotive Careers Education, is an academy at RMHS which prepares students for jobs in the automotive and transportation fields.

“Today you can’t take it to a dealer,” Bill Stewart, one of the car owners at the event, said about his 1959 Desoto Fireflight station wagon. “This is a specialty type of mechanic that would work on these.”

That’s exactly what Angel Perez, one of the RACE students, is training to do. At the event on Tuesday, Perez and his team judged fourteen collectible cars on factors like paint and interior on a scale of one to five.

“This an opportunity for them to see what under the hood looked like in 1959 or 1957,” Stewart said. “It’s a very different world under the hood than it is today.”

According to their instructor, William Bodnar, that type of hands-on experience is similar to what the academy students are able to do on a daily basis in class.

“We teach them actually what’s in the marketplace right now, what’s coming out, what they’re going to see,” Bodnar said. “It’s teaching them for a career.”

A niche career that’s needed and pays up to $100-thousand a year in some cases. In the Coachella Valley, specialty mechanics are in demand.

“When you see a lot of these [cars] on the streets and they drive down neighborhoods, it’s almost like you can close your eyes and you get a flashback to the way it used to be when Lucille Ball and Dezi were here and Frank Sinatra,” Stewart said.

Bodnar, a mechanic before he took the job with RACE, said his dual enrollment course serves as opportunity for the students to test out what they’re interested in while getting college credit.

“I hope that they just find something that they’re passionate about like I did and I hope they just can go in to something and enjoy it everyday,” Bodnar said.

RACE students will travel to Detroit in April to look at two colleges, as well as car factories and dealerships in the city.

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