GREAT FALLS — Growing up you may have spent a few weekends in the garage watching your dad work on a family vehicle, maybe giving you a few tips or had you pass a couple tools his way. Well, the students at Paris Gibson Education Center are learning automotive maintenance as curriculum.
The automotive shop at Paris Gibson Education Center has been teaching students how to care for cars for 15 years. The advanced courses taught at the shop are available to students who complete the first two under-the-hood classes offered at Great Falls High School and CMR High School.
“In this facility we do all the under car work. So when a student leaves the idea is they’ve got a good common knowledge of everything and all operating systems in the vehicle,” said Auto A.S.E. instructor Joe Wilkins.
Completing all three courses is meant to certify students to enter the work force or further their education.
Senior Kolby Mackenstadt started working in town at a shop as a junior in high school and plans to continue following his passion for cars.
“They taught me the basics and then they say me up to go to a real shop and just get into it. The best way to learn and be in this trade is just working hands-on every day. It’s things you learn every day that just keep you going. So after high school, I’m going to be a mechanic. It’s just something I’ve always looked forward to bu this class really helped make that decision for me it was just a real eye-opener,” said Kolby.
In auto classes, students will everything from tire rotation, oil changes, and servicing. The students work on driver education cars for Paris Gibson.
“Passing knowledge on to students is always gratifying especially when you see the lightbulb come on where they really grasp it. They really want to take off and run with it. It’s great to work with students that get because they want to be here. They want to do these things and it’s very satisfying,” said Wilkins.
Students also get to bring in their own cars to work on.
“I’ve put a new motor in mine and put countless things on the motor trying to make it run better. We’ve had other classmates' vehicles come in and we’ve torn their stuff up and put them back together, cleaned them up. There’s just something about grabbing a wrench and turning some bolts and fixing stuff, just good times,” said student Brycen Roberts.
Since the inception of the Paris Gibson Auto Program, 208 students have graduated with a National Certification of Automotive Service Excellence; 142 of those graduates are still working in the auto industry in 2021.