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Newberg is one of a handful of schools to sign on with World of Speed

Newberg High School doesn’t have its own auto shop, but students are getting their hands dirty under the hood this year nonetheless.

That’s because administrators have partnered with both Newberg Rotary clubs to send students to a Clackamas Community College dual-credit automotive program at the World of Speed auto museum in Wilsonville. GRAPHIC PHOTO: SETH GORDON - Clackamas Community College instructor Les Blahuta shows Newberg High School students how to balance a tire at the World of Speed auto shop in Wilsonville.

The collaboration between CCC and World of speed began with one class from the West Linn-Wilsonville School District in fall 2015, but it has grown steadily in just a year.

The local rotary clubs provided $18,000 to get Newberg High School started with one 22-student section this fall and new principal Kyle Laier and new school-to-business coordinator Mona Lau are working to make it a permanent program.

“It’s enough to get you interested and show you if you would like this or not,” senior Juli DuBois said. “And the shop work helps so you know if you’d be able to do it. It’s definitely helped me out a lot and it’s free.”

Since NHS uses block scheduling, students are bussed to the World of Speed auto shop twice or three times a week for a two-hour class that provides both high school and college credit.

So far, the Fundamentals of Automotive class has split time between the classroom and the shop, but moving forward CCC instructor Les Blahuta will do more and more hands-on learning. Juniors in the class will then have the opportunity to return for the engine repair portion of the course next year.

Newberg is one of a handful of schools to sign on with World of Speed and if that’s where the program ended, it would still be a fruitful partnership, but administrators have taken it a step further.

Students taking the course this year will also have a chance to build on what they’ve learned because three local businesses — Newberg Ford, Newberg Dodge and True Form Collision Repair — have pledged to provide real-world learning experiences in the form of job shadows, paid internships and possibly even scholarships.

The program has proven to be a godsend for Dubois, who participates in robotics and was leaning toward engineering, but has pivoted toward auto mechanics because of the class.

She has already done a job shadow with Newberg Ford and learned about their ASSET program, which combines automotive classes at Mount Hood Community College with paid work at a dealership.

“I had an interest, but I had never really done anything with it because, at our school, the only automotive thing they had was small engines because that’s what they were set up for,” DuBois said. “I’m really glad this ended up being something for my senior year because it helps me a lot with where I’m going after school.”

Laier and Lau are hoping the program will be the first of several similar at NHS that expand opportunities for students and involve partnerships with local businesses.

“I’ve been working nonprofits for a long time and this is one of the few examples of a true partnership,” World of Speed Director of Education Lewis Ferguson said. “Usually, one entity gets a lot more out of it than the other. If any of these partners dropped the ball, it wouldn’t happen. Everybody was dedicated to seeing this succeed and so far it has.”

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