- Parma City School District
Automotive Service Technology students look for continued success at competition
February 10, 2020
When Career and Technical Auto Service Technology teacher Gary Mitchhart started 14 years ago at Valley Forge, he promised the school’s principal Steele Nowlin one thing.
“I told him, ‘If you hire me here, I will make sure that I return this program to being the best program in the state,’” Mitchhart said. “Ever since then, I’ve never lost this competition since being here.”
The competition Mitchhart referred to is the Greater Cleveland Auto Dealers Association Technology Competition, held each year during the Auto Show at Cleveland’s IX Center.
“I like to be the high school that beats all of the career centers. I love doing that,” Mitchhart added. “I’m sort of the perpetual thorn in the backside of everybody else out there. We’ve been to this contest for 14 years straight, and we’ve won it more than all the other schools combined. I think that says a lot, not just for the program, but for the kids who want to take this. They see that.”
Last year, AST students Reno Frate (Valley Forge) and Cru Webb (Parma) won the 27th annual competition, and both students were awarded a $5,000 scholarship to any trade school. Frate and another student, Matt Noernberg, then moved onto the National Automotive Technology competition in New York City.
This year, the AST program sent four high school seniors to the regional qualifying competition at Tri-C’s Western Campus. This year’s representatives from the PCSD included Robert Matus (Valley Forge), Cynthia Mendez (Normandy), Andrew Martin (Parma) and Aleksa Sovic (Normandy), all seniors enrolled in the two-year program.
These four AST students were given an exam of 200 questions, which tested their knowledge in all areas of automotive service.
“The test included electrical and electronics, brakes, basic maintenance, steering and suspension and engine performance,” Mendez explained. “We had like two hours to take this test with a room, very full of a lot of other students, which was very intimidating.”
The top five schools with the highest score on the regional test send the top two students to the GCADA competition in February. This year, Matus and Martin earned the spots for the AST program, and will face off against Lakewood, Medina, Polaris Career Center and Sentinel Career Center.
At the GCADA competition, students compete in a “hands-on” final competition against each other for scholarship dollars. All teams will diagnose and then repair problems on the same vehicle, a 2020 Chevrolet Equinox. The AST students explained that they would learn much more about this particular vehicle by visiting a local dealership in the coming months to see first-hand.
“We’re confident,” Matus said of heading into the competition. “There’s definitely a little bit of nervousness there, but at the end of the day, we know what we can do. We will be able to put forth enough effort to get by and hopefully move onto the nationals.”
“He (Mitchhart) really cares. He really wants us to move on,” Martin added.
“Michhart’s experiences and the strictness level he performed out in the field as a mechanic and service manager, he also uses it in the classroom,” Sovic explained. “That definitely helps us prepare going into something, so we’re not blindsided by it and not used to it. He definitely prepares us very well.”
For Mitchhart himself, the competition is just one of many reasons to be proud of his students.
“All of the students in here, in my opinion, are winners,” Mitchhart stated. “I’ve watched them grow, not just physically but also emotionally, over these two years. They are different kids when they walk out of here. To make that commitment for two years, I think, says a lot about these kids. As far as being proud, on a scale of one to ten, I’m at a 12.”
The GCADA Technology Competition will be held on Sunday, February 23 at the IX Center in Cleveland. To attend the competition, tickets must be purchased to the Auto Show.
PHOTO CAPTION: (L-R): Auto Service Technology students Cynthia Mendez, Andrew Martin, Robert Matus and Aleksa Sovic competed in the first round of the Greater Cleveland Auto Dealers Association Competition at Tri-C’s Western Campus.