Automotive tech students fix family car

Frenship High School’s automotive technology department helped repair a 1993 Ford Escort for a family in the Frenship Community. From left are Jon Richards, Travis Lea, Trevor Ercanbrack, Caleb Alonzo, Tanner Houck, J.R. Gambles, Drew Burke, Josh Klein, Josh Cristan, Andrew Smith, Mario Guerrero and James Salazar. Also Pictured are Martha Hernandez, third from right, Joseph Hernandez and Sergio Hernandez.  (Photo by Jim Jarrett)

By Jim Jarrett

In 2006, Sergio Hernandez wrote a letter to help his family. But the note also helped some future mechanics.

Hernandez, who was a fourth-grader at the time in the Frenship school district, wrote a letter to Santa Claus in one of his elementary school classes and asked for help with the family’s car — a 1993 Ford Escort.

The Hernandez family had been without the car for some time and couldn’t afford to repair it, much less get a new automobile.

Sergio’s mother, Martha, cares for two children, and one has multiple sclerosis and learning disabilities.

Friends helped the family when they could and gave them rides.

“You know people. They’d make faces but would do it,” recalled Martha.

Former Frenship teacher Robin West intercepted Sergio’s note. She asked Mario Guerrero in the high school’s automotive department to help as part of the adopt-a-family program that Christmas.

Guerrero and students of the Frenship Automotive Technology Department presented Martha Hernandez and her family the car last week.

By the numbers

Here are some of the current and projected future numbers in Frenship High School’s automotive technology department:
35 – Number of students currently in advanced classes at automotive department.
131 – Number of students expected to take automotive classes in 2008-09.
97 – Number of students expected to take beginning auto classes next fall.
13 – Number of students currently working in the automotive industry since Mario Guerrero began teaching the program four years ago.
2 – Number of teachers in the automotive department.

While Hernandez and her family received a repaired car, members of the Frenship High School Automotive Technology Department also gained something — work experience.

“(The students) got an education and got to help somebody in the community,” said Guerrero.

When Guerrero received the car, he found it in poor shape. One of the valves was loose and its pieces banged around the cylinder, which destroyed the head and other pistons.

Guerrero and his students overhauled the engine over the next 16 months, replacing heads, pistons, rings, the rod, main bearings battery and belts. Teaching each class what to do made the process longer, he said.

“All of my classes took part in it. Auto tech II and III, model tech I classes and some of my classes,” said Guerrero.

When the car turned over for the first time in months, “it was the greatest feeling ever,” said J.R. Gambles, a senior.

Frenship students Caleb Alonzo, Colton Clark, Josh Cristan, Tyler Davis, Trevor Ercanbrack, Kegan Gillespie, Scott Harville, Thomas Holder, Tanner Houck, Josh Klein, Travis Lea, Jon Richards, Andrew Smith, Rebecca Vasquez and Crystal Weddel also worked on the car. Former students Trey Bradley and Trey Hargrove also worked on the car.

The total cost of the job would have been about $1,800 if the family had gone to an automotive repair shop, said Guerrero.

When they received the car last week, the Hernandez family brought the automotive department team a gift of their own — cookies and soft drinks.

Most of the crew members who worked on the car were there and shook hands with the family.

Richards, a junior, didn’t realize the rebuilt car was for a family until the project was nearly complete. “I thought it was kind of cool, kind of special,” he said.

Martha said it was good to again have a car.

“It’s a little car, but it’s been faithful,” she said. “It has sentimental value because the kids’ grandfather gave it to us. He was already deceased and I hated to part with it. He picked it out for us.”

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