Monday, March 23, 2015

The Little El Camino That Could

Andrew Kay
When Andrew Kay was in the eighth grade, his grandfather gave him a 1980 El Camino. 

That was when he discovered what he wanted to do with his life. 

“I always loved working with my hands and fixing things, but tinkering with that car really helped me find my passion,” says Andrew, who is an automotive technician at Hendrick Honda of Charleston.

1980 El Camino


Andrew entered high school having already decided what he wanted to do. So he started taking classes through Trident Technical College’s Dual Credit Program, earning credits that applied to both his high school diploma and his college degree. He graduated from high school a year early and immediately started full-time at Trident Tech.


“Most of the required classes in high school had nothing to do with my career goals. I didn’t want to waste another year. I loved the automotive classes and the instructors at TTC and wanted to concentrate on that. When you are learning what you love, it is easy to get A’s,” Kay says.

One of those instructors, and Andrew’s mentor, Walter (Buzz) Varella, automotive technology program director, agrees. 

“You have to really want to be here to succeed, and Andrew certainly wanted to be here.  He was always very inquisitive, eager and energetic about his studies. This energy carried him into his career,” Varella says.
Andrew with friend and co-worker, Chris Field.  Chris and
Andrew graduated from TTC together in 2009.


While at TTC, Andrew received the W. Athell Yon Automotive Scholarship, awarded by the TTC Foundation Scholarship Program to students pursuing an Automotive Technology associate degree or an Automotive Servicing certificate.

The Athell Yon fund has since evolved to include assistance with something students need just as much as tuition: tools. Automotive techs are required to have all of their own tools, which requires a significant investment, averaging anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000 when starting out and increasing as technicians progress in their career. 

In order to provide that assistance, the TTC Department of Automotive Technology holds the Spring Spin-Off Car Show. The event has been held annually for the past 22 years, and this year will be held on Saturday, April 25, 2015 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.  

The 2014 Spring Spin-Off Car Show
“It’s such an exciting and well-attended event.  Last year the automotive community and car buffs helped us raise more than $13,000.  The more we raise, the more students we can help,” says Varella, who manages the event.

Kay says that getting the Athell Yon Scholarship enabled him to gain a work-study position in the department and graduate from TTC in 2009 debt-free. Armed with his associate degree in Automotive Technology and real-world experience, it didn’t take him long to find a job. 

“Although a degree is not necessarily a requirement of the job, the knowledge is, and there is no better way to gain that knowledge than at TTC,” says Kay. 

As for the El Camino?

"I sold it in high school.  After that I bought a 1989 Ford Mustang 5.0 that didn't run and it became my class project the entire time I was at Trident Tech," says Kay. "I am really a Ford guy anyway." 
1989 Ford Mustang 5.0

Learn More:
2015 Spring Spin-Off  |  TTC Scholarships

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