YATC knows the Art of Success

Posted on 26 November 2019 by LeslieM

By Rachel Galvin

Since its inception in 1984, the Youth Automotive Center (YATC), created by Jim Moran, has served as an alternative education program for kids. Not only do the students learn basic automotive repair, but also academics, job readiness and life skills. The company is located right here in Deerfield Beach at 399 SW 3 Ave.

On Nov. 9, they held a special Art of Success event, which included an open house of their facility during the day, complete with BBQ by L&B Catering, and fun activities and raffles. At night, they had an evening reception at the Boca Raton Museum of Art.

At the Open House, Charles Whitehouse showed guests the room where he teaches job readiness and life skills. Before he became a teacher back in 1995, he was a student himself, starting in 1988.

Instructor Loren Kushner talked about some of the ways they train students on automotive techniques, often using videos to instruct some of the basics. He graduated from the program back in 1987. His father and uncle were in the automotive business. He always enjoyed working with his hands. Coming into this program got him back on his feet and helped him build a future. He ended up getting GM certified and became a technician before eventually applying to teach here.

“Before I was in the program, I was in a drug rehab for six months. As a kid, I was always taking things apart – the toaster, clock radio… My mom would say, ‘You can’t put that back together,’ but I always could. In 1986, my uncle said what are you going to do? Do you want to work on cars? And he told me about the program.”

Instructor Roger Lamoreal told guests about how kids received hands on experience working on cars. Their Harvey J. Rumsfield Memorial Automotive Training Shop was filled with cars ready to be worked on. He said cars are usually donated and kids fix them up, and, sometimes, the cars are given back to the kids.

“We try to teach them [the students] about team building and help them get into college,” said Lamoreal.

Heidi Gonzalez is the lead academic instructor. She is used to dealing with kids that have been through tough times. Before this, she was a probation officer.

“I have been here for eight years working with this population. I love what I do. Mr. Moran got it right. There is no other program I have seen that has had such a success rate. I want to keep the intimacy of the school. I wish other companies would get involved and somehow replicate this. I advocate that this is not the last stop. I sit down with them and ask, ‘What do you want [for your life]?’ We do an assessment test to make sure [they have basic skills they need]. We get them ready for their GED exam.”

She showed off a board that features names and pictures of all the graduates, something she leaves up to inspire new students.

“They can come in here 10 years from now and their name will still be on the board,” she said.

She added that JM employees come in on their lunch break to volunteer to tutor students as well, which is beneficial for the students, but also the JM staff, who are always about giving back to the community.

Students do not have to go into automotive after taking this program. Lisa Jacsaint, who is currently in the program, wants to get into law enforcement.

“This school is a good school. The teachers are wonderful. In a traditional high school, everyone is afraid to ask questions. But I sit here [in the front] and always ask questions. We do it over and over again until we get it,” she said.

Ranger Mervilus went on to drive a US Foods truck.

“YATC helped me get my CDL license. I graduated in 2003. It changed my life. If it weren’t for YATC, I don’t know where I would be right now. Words can’t explain how much they helped me. I’m in the process of buying a home next year. I got married and had my first son. I’m about to buy my own truck, and I am about to start my own business. It’s not just mechanics. I chose another route,” said Mervilus.

Nikolas Rattray said they also have field trips and other events. He said that after completing the program, he wants to get ASE certified and go to college for business.

He added, “Two of my [friends] got their GED here. [I thought I would come here] and put in the work and see the outcome.”

Micah Pinnock wants to go into construction after the program.

“It is a good program. It has a lot of benefits,” he added.

Khalel Williams started the school in September and he couldn’t be happier with the program.

He said, “I was hanging out with the wrong group of friends. It caused me to get arrested and go to court. The judge told me about YATC. I knew I liked mechanics. I love fixing stuff. When you take something that is broken and then see it working, it gives you that peace. I have nothing but good things to say about the program. When I was in school, I didn’t like the way the school system was set up. I come here every day so that should tell you something. Everyone is here to uplift you. They help you get your high school diploma. They also give you a 500 piece toolset and help you get into Toyota or Lexus.”

[Jim Moran, who passed away in 2007, created JM Family Enterprises, which is still the Southeast distributor for Toyota and also owns JM Lexus, located in Margate.]

The next event for YATC is their yearly Cool Wheels Car Show, which is scheduled for Jan. 19 at Quiet Waters Park.

For more information on this program, visit www.yatc.org.

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