In February of this year, the Davison Auto Tech program was named one of the Top 4 in the nation as a finalist in the O’Reilly Auto Parts “Tomorrow’s Technician School of the Year” competition earning the program a $500 dollar gift card. “Our program went up against colleges, vocational schools and other high school programs across the country,” said Davison Auto Tech Teacher Andrew Michalik. “It’s a big honor and we are very proud of our program and our students.”
Davison Auto Tech is a two-year program open to Davison High School juniors and seniors with an interest in automotive technology. The program is so popular with students, however, that Michalik is pushing to open it up to sophomores. “We have a long waiting list,” he says. “I can’t get every kid in here who is interested. We might have to hire a part-time teacher!” he laughs.
The program’s popularity is easy to understand, considering that Davison Auto Tech is often a direct line to future employment. Students are encouraged to partake in Davison’s co-op program to gain valuable on-the-job experience at local dealerships and auto shops, and top students in the program are eligible for scholarships to one of the many partnership schools such as Ohio Technical College, University of Northwestern Ohio, Universal Technical Institute, Ferris State and others. Ryan, a Davison High Senior in year two of the program, will take advantage of the opportunity and attend Ohio Technical College for Electrical work next fall. “Before Davison Auto Tech, I had no idea what I wanted to do in the future,” he says. “During my first year in the program, I realized that this was something I loved to do. I decided to study electrical work more in-depth for a career.” Michalik is constantly fielding calls from local dealerships inquiring about whether or not he has any students looking for work. Recently, he was contacted by a company looking for students interested in working on diesel pumps – two second-year students have expressed interest.
Auto Tech students study a variety of techniques and systems related to working on and repairing vehicles such as electrical, welding, engine replacement, brakes, rotors, struts, computers and more. “In my program, it’s not unusual for a senior to have built a few transmissions before they graduate,” says Michalik. “A lot of the kids show up early on Wednesdays during the week to work on specific skills they want to improve like welding, for example.” Vehicles for study are provided by Davison faculty, donors, program alumni and the students themselves. It’s not uncommon for them to bring in their own transportation for fixes or upgrades. The program is able to accommodate a variety of vehicles at any one time and work on numerous break-downs as it features four hoists, two alignment racks, welders, a plasma cutter, computers and everything else needed for a true auto shop. “I’m very thankful that Davison supports the program 100%,” says Michalik. “They get us what we need.”
As a bonus, the program has its own drag racing car, a couple of off-road vehicles that students are able to drive at The Mounds ORV Park, and Michalik’s own monster truck, the “Insane Instructor.” Michalik asks, “How many kids can put the fact that they worked on a monster truck on their resume before graduating high school?”
“It’s crazy to think that in two years, we will have given away $800,000 in scholarships.”
Instructor, Andrew Michalik
The newest thing the students are working on are hybrid and electrical systems, although components are very hard to come by. “We are desperately in need of hybrid system components,” says Michalik. “I recently purchased a 2011 fully-electric Nissan Leaf with my own money just so the kids could understand how it works and drive it. It’s so old, the battery only lasts for about 60 miles. It’s enough to get to work and back but it did die in my driveway once. That was close – I had to push it into my garage.”
Another thing that sets the program apart is the family atmosphere it creates. Former students constantly visit to drop off cars to be worked on or to talk with Michalik and current students. “They always come back to tell me how much more money they are making than I do,” Michalik says with a laugh. “I’m just glad they are doing so well.” Some students love it so much, they spend the majority of their free time in the garage learning, doing work and teaching other students like Teacher Cadet, Aaron Gould. “It’s a total family atmosphere,” he says. “We all want each other to succeed and we all know where each new student is coming from.” When asked what he likes most about the program, he replies “I would do this forever.” Gould will continue his education at Northwestern Ohio on scholarship next fall.
For other students, it’s the only place where they feel accepted. “I don’t do well in other classes,” says Davison High Senior, Joseph. “I have ADHD and I struggle everywhere but here. I get to work with my hands and always have something to do. That keeps me engaged. This is the highpoint of my day, every day.” Joseph is the third generation of his family to come through the Davison Auto Tech program.
On May 19, the Davison Auto Tech Program will host its 8th annual car show and student skills competition which gives students from Genesee County and beyond a chance to compete for $80,000 in scholarship funds to attend technical schools. “It’s crazy to think that in two years, we will have given away $800,000 in scholarships,” states Michalik. The show is worked entirely by students and Michalik says the Davison High School parking lot is always packed with show cars of every variety. “The show is free to attend but we do take donations and everything goes to the Auto Tech program,” adds Michalik. “We give out awards such as Best Car, Best Truck and my favorite, Student’s Choice. It’s a fun time on a Friday night.”
It’s a total family atmosphere and we all want each other to succeed. I would do this forever.” Student Teacher Cadet, Aaron Gould
For Davison Auto Tech and its students, the road is wide open.
Davison Auto Tech is in dire need of used hybrid-electrical and full-electric components and parts for student instruction. To donate or help, contact Andrew Michalik at 810.591.1013 or Michelle Edwards at 810.591.0852.
Don’t miss the DHS Car Show and Student Competition on May 19 at Davison High School from 5-8pm.