19 July 2009

Hands-On Learning at Monty Tech

The hands-on learning environment at Monty Tech is in high demand in the Fitchburg community. The school had to turn down 700 applicants for the 2007-08 school year alone. There are 1,350 students at Monty Tech. “We are filled to the gills!” says Stanislov Szlosek, Auto Body instructor. Area parents are tuned in to the fact that students who may not thrive in traditional academic settings are chomping at the bit to get into the Monty Tech hands-on environment.

There are 57 students in the Auto Body program, which is “over our max,” Stanislov says. He reports that there are always students on the program’s waiting list. Prospective freshmen tour the school from September through February, spending one week each in nine different shops. Prospective students must rate their first, second and third choices—and the Auto Body program is always their first choice.

Students in the program have been busy with multiple projects, thanks to an equipment grant from the Collectors Foundation. Sophomores are converting a Vega to a pro-street car, installing a V8 and a power glide transmission. ROTC students are working on two ’53 military Jeeps. Juniors are finishing a ’72 BMW, finishing off the fenders, rockers and quarter panels. Seniors are finishing a 60’s series Maverick gas dragster, with an altered wheel base and street axle; they have been working on it for the past three years.

Stanislov reports that a majority of the auto body students enjoy classic car hobbies at home, too. This factor generates an exceptional level of parental involvement. Many parents are also involved with the local drag racing club, the Mid State Antique Car Club and the North Central Hot Rod Club. “We have a very strong advisory committee,” Stanislov says. The committee meets two to three times annually to recommend strategies for the shop, such as which current technologies to adopt.

Parents and the advisory committee also help organize the annual open house, where the program may display more than 60 cars. They also assist with the annual fundraiser in May. More than 180 cars were displayed at last year’s fundraiser.

“The local community is very supportive of our auto program,” Stanislov says. He says car hobbyists are continually donating shop equipment, which helps reduce the program’s out-of-pocket expenses.

Local restoration shops are also very supportive of the Auto Body program. “We are in good touch with local shops,” Stanislov says. The program sponsors seminars specifically for local shops to introduce new technologies. “We are very well acknowledged in the community,” he adds.

Stanislov tries to help graduates land jobs in some of these local restoration shops. “A few graduates work in local restoration shops,” he says. “If I can get a student in, if I see he’s going to make the shop owner a profit, I try to get the student in the door."

Stanislov believes it is important for students to specifically work on classic cars because it provides unparalleled auto body experience. “It gives them respect for themselves as craftsmen versus technicians,” he says. “It teaches patience and critical thinking skills. They have to figure out how to make a fender from scratch, or how to make an old electrical system work. It teaches them respect for self, for the customer and for the vehicle to create a masterpiece. They become skilled craftsmen verses typical auto body men.”

Stanislov says it is important to keep the classic car hobby alive “because it’s history. It creates a link with the past. It’s a more personal thing in today’s society. It’s like a family that’s different. Once you get in, you don’t want to leave.”

 

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