Ponitz students refurbish, give 2 cars

Class project helps others.

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Students in the automotive program at David H. Ponitz Career Technology Center are not only learned how to refurbish and repair cars, they’ve received lessons in caring about student achievement and the community.

Last year instructor Rick Seither started a program to increase attendance and grades and minimize discipline issues. Called “In It to Win It,” students earn tickets for attendance, grades and behavior; at the end of the school year, names are drawn and one student receives a car refurbished during the year by automotive technology students.

“This project was entered into the Miami Valley Career Tech Show Case competition at Sinclair last year and took first place,” said Seither.

“In it to Win It” was repeated this year, with a 2008 Chevy Cobalt won by junior Isaiah McCalister, Jr.

But the refurbishing for a purpose idea didn’t stop there; Seither and his students came up with a new project, “From Goodwill for Goodwill,” to provide a car to a community member in need.

“My class sent out 3,000 emails district-wide asking for letters of recommendation and got 32 letters back,” said Seifert. “Students read them, and some had tears in their eyes. They were heart-wrenching, and it was hard to say no to any, but they took the top five, then drew one.”

The key to the refurbished 2006 Toyota Sienna minivan was presented during a Dayton Board of Education meeting to Prosper Shaka, a father of six. He, his wife and four children had escaped the Congo during intense conflict, bringing along two other boys orphaned by war, and the family was eventually resettled in Dayton.

Sally Lamping, associate professor at Wright State University, wrote the letter of recommendation.

“I work with teachers and adolescents in the Dayton Public Schools’ high school English as a Second Language program … but I had not encountered a story as remarkable as the one I shared,” said Lamping.

“This man works 38.75 hours per week, traveling long hours on the city bus. He has his temporary driver’s license but does not have money to buy a car,” she noted in her letter.

After presenting the car key to Shaka and his family, Aziza Nour, a junior who worked on both cars, explained the project, and Lamping read her letter. “She had brought the whole family, and the room fell silent as she read,” said Seither, who will continue the project next year.

“Both cars were diagnosed and refurbished completely,” he said. “Voss Auto Group found the cars headed to auction and we rebuilt and replaced parts, gave them complete tune-ups, changed fluids and tires, and did complete detailing inside and out.

“The 19 kids knew that someone was going to drive these cars, and they took ownership and pride in both of them.”

In addition to Voss Auto, area businesses that contributed to the projects included Genuine and Oreilly auto parts, Grismer Tire and Auto Service, and Tri-State Wheel.