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$300K grant boosts Harlingen High’s auto body program

June 15, 2017 GMT

HARLINGEN — Marcos Fragoso loves detailing automobiles with colorful and artistic designs.

“I like doing that,” said Marcos, 15, pointing to a glistening blue door of a truck at the Harlingen High School Auto-body and Collision Shop.

“That’s something I want to learn,” he said enthusiastically.

The Harlingen High School sophomore has already begun learning some basics of auto body work. But a $300,000 check from the Texas Workforce Commission will allow for the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment.

The donation is through the Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) grant. TWC presented the grant to the Harlingen school district in a formal ceremony yesterday afternoon.

“This is a great day for the Harlingen school district, for the children of the citizens of Harlingen,” said Justice of the Peace Mike Trejo, who is also an ambassador with the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce.

“They can learn a great trade,” Trejo said. “This gives them the support to succeed in life.”

Numerous local officials attended the ceremony, including instructors, administrators, school board members and even students — fitting since the whole purpose of the grant and then planned expenditures are for the students.

Raul Alvarez, director of career and technology education for the district, would not say specifically how this particular grant would be spent, except to say it was for the auto body shop.

However, planned purchases for the shop are crucial. The new equipment being purchased will teach students how to use equipment they’ll find in the workforce, Alvarez said.

“Our school district is so blessed to be receiving such a gift,” Alvarez said. “Our kids are really deserving of this. It helps bring them even more up to speed for their future.”

He gestured toward a blue truck on a lift at the HHS auto body shop. He recalled a time when a hydraulic lift would rise from beneath the floor and lift a car into the air. No more. This truck sat on a lift within a framework which is operated by 21st-century technology.

While the new equipment will be current for quite some time, computers and other technology used to operate it will continue to change. Industry is always changing, and that highlights the importance of keeping up with those changes.

“To get the kids ready for the industry, we’re required to have updated equipment,” Alvarez said. “The equipment includes an industrial painting booth. We want to get a better one.”

twhitehead@valleystar.com