Bridgestone Opens Auto Center at East CLC

Academy Partner Delivers Experience
Posted on 11/01/2018
Image of Bridgestone Auto Care Center at East CLC(Jennifer Conn for Cleveland.com)

Akron Public Schools in partnership with Bridgestone Americas cut the ribbon Tuesday for the East Community Learning Center's Firestone Complete Auto Care Center.

A scaled-down version of one of Bridgestone's auto care centers, the facility is the centerpiece of the Automotive Technology Center at the school's Bridgestone Academy of Applied Engineering and Technology. The Bridgestone Academy also includes electrical engineering, information technology and welding.

In Akron's college-and-career academies, students choose one of 16 different career paths in eight schools and learn through hands-on experiences and instruction from industry professionals in their chosen field.

The Automotive Technology Center at East CLC will give about 100 students in the automotive track hands-on experience working with top-of-the-line automotive technology. The students also will learn the business practices necessary to run a retail store, from customer service to inventory and scheduling.

Complete with a customer waiting area, the auto-care center was built in the school's existing automotive lab, with Bridgestone donating software, materials and fixtures.

Students will wear uniforms and eventually provide basic auto-maintenance services for the community. Revenue from the center will go back into the program.

The automotive technology program at East CLC has a long history of teaching students auto-repair skills, said Chad Groom, East's automotive technology teacher.

With the Bridgestone Americas collaboration and the new auto care center, more students are likely to be attracted to the automotive track because of the retail component, he said.

Akron students begin thinking about their futures in ninth grade, when they enter the Freshman Academy. They begin their career path as sophomores and follow it through to graduation.

Students at East's Automotive Technology Center have the ability to gain the skills needed to earn all eight certifications required by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. With eight certifications, they have earned the automotive industry's "master technician" credential, Groom said.

On the mechanical side of the automotive technology center, students work on a variety of vehicles, some of which are donated to the school.

The garage has seven lifts. In January, students will begin offering the public basic mechanical services such as oil changes, tire rotations and replacement and alignments. Charges for the services will cover the cost of labor but be less than what's charged at traditional Firestone auto centers, Groom said.

Bridgestone's sponsorship goes beyond donating materials to the auto-care facility. It includes a commitment of 1,000 hours of time and talent in the first year, said Akron Superintendent David W. James.

As a named sponsor, Bridgestone also will draw on its relationships with industry professionals to work with students, offering such experiences as job shadowing, industry field trips, internships and special projects.

Image of Bridgestone Auto Training Center at East CLC

(L to R) Chadwick Groom, automotive technology teacher, East CLC; Bill Wilson, Akron area manager, Bridgestone Retail Operations; Nizar Trigui, chief technology officer, Bridgestone Americas; David James, superintendent, Akron Public Schools; Rachel Tecca, director of college & career academies, Akron Public Schools; Jim Mullen, president & CEO, United Way of Summit County; Vyrone Finney, principal, East CLC; Bob Lux, director of consumer tire design, Bridgestone Americas; and Mark Black, executive director of secondary education, Akron Public Schools.

One of the goals of the Bridgestone Academy of Applied Engineering and Technology is to keep students engaged and ensure they are employable when they graduate, Trigui said.

United Way of Summit County works to arrange partnerships between the academies and Greater Akron businesses and helped facilitate the district's partnership with Bridgestone.

According to United Way President and CEO Jim Mullen, a goal of the career academies is to pair schools with businesses that are game changers and dream makers.

East Community Learning Center Principal Vyrone Finney said visitors often comment about how much school has changed since they attended.

What hasn't changed, he said, is the need for people to believe in the students and their future, and the new automotive-training facility is evidence of that belief.

Image of Bridgestone Auto Training Center at East CLC

Nicholas McDonald stands next to a 2004 Monte Carlo that the students restored.

The vehicle wasn't running when General Motors donated it. The vehicle is now equipped with a supercharged engine, a new exhaust and dashboard gauges.

An issue of Tomorrow's Tech, published by Akron-based Babcox Publishing, is on display with the car. It features a story on the East CLC team that restored the vehicle.

Image of Bridgestone Auto Training Center at East CLC

Enthusiastic automotive-technology students show off the new Firestone Complete Auto Care Center: (L to R) Alexander Jacob, Akron Public Schools Board Member Ginger Baylor, Daiiyon Somerville, Derell Glover, Kendrick Jones, Michael Grimmett, Kam'Ron Mathews, Thrisher Johnson and Claude Williams IV.

Image of Bridgestone Auto Training Center at East CLC
Automotive technology teacher Chad Groom
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