New Beginnings High School had a lot to celebrate today, as they accepted a $25,000 grant from AT&T for their new Automobile Academy. Founder and CEO of New Beginnings High School, Ashlee Wright, began the program by giving thanks to the community for coming to learn more about their new Automobile Academy. She introduced the instructor of the program Mr. Lockhart, the board of New Beginnings High School, members of the Polk County School Board, Matt with AT&T, Representative Sam Killebrew and also, County Commissioner, Todd Dantzler who were all there to show their support and excitement for the Automobile Academy.
"This new Automobile Academy will allow students to hone their skills here in Winter Haven and then go out and use these skills right here in our community," said Ashlee Wright, as she explained the importance of being taught in Winter Haven and using those skills locally. "Go to a Winter Haven car dealership or mechanic in 5 years and ask them where they learned their automotive skills. We expect that many of them will say, "New Beginnings High School!"
After an introduction of the program and the many people involved in it, she invited Mr. Lockhart to share more details about what the students will be learning and working on. Students will begin the Automobile program with Customer Service courses and then they will move to learning about how an engine works, small engine repair and so much more. There are 6 parts to the first part of the course and the following courses will teach students about diesel engines. Mr. Lockhart expressed his excitement for the program and for the students as they experience the first technical and hands on program at New Beginnings High School.
Two of his current students, Martin and Felicia, had the chance to share their experience in the program so far and also their goals for the future. Martin Ramirez shared that he wants to get a job at a car dealership and feels this program will help him do so. Felicia Infante hopes to graduate soon and told us that New Beginnings High School has been her best decision yet. Both of these students hold a 90% average in the program and have been with Mr. Lockhart since day one.
Ashlee then introduced Matt, with AT&T, to say a few words about the grant and how this opportunity came about. Many people ask, "How do you choose a certain organization for a grant?" Matt's reply is simple: It all starts with people. The conversation about AT&T giving a grant to New Beginnings started a couple years ago with Representative Sam Killebrew. Unfortunately the timing wasn't right and AT&T was just waiting for another chance to partner with New Beginnings High School. Upon hearing the news about the new Automobile Program from Ashlee Wright, Matt felt that this was the best fit and is extremely proud to be apart of it all. Matt said, "Without Sam and Ashlee, none of this would be possible."
After the program, guests were invited to enjoy lunch, speak with students and also explore the new space for the Automobile Academy. While exploring the new area, video testimonials from students were playing for guests to see. One testimonial was from Shanna, a previous student of New Beginnings High School. Shanna shared how she was going though a very tough time when she started at New Beginnings. She was working long hours to make ends meet, attending classes at New Beginnings and struggling to even find time to sleep. But at the end of her emotional testimonial, she said, "It is possible for me to have a bright future at New Beginnings." Shanna went on to graduate in 2014.
Ashlee Wright expressed that , "This is just the beginning for us at New Beginnings! We are going to see so much growth in the near future." The new Automobile Academy is expected to be another great asset to the community and the young people who live here. Ashlee is excited to be giving this community a new generation of automotive professionals who will be skilled enough to find careers right here in Winter Haven.