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Sweetgrass County students work with the community while learning about car restoration



Big Timber, Montana – Sweetgrass Technical Institute teaches high school and junior high school students about auto restoration while also assisting the local community.

Six high school students and six junior high students are presently enrolled in the program, according to Casey Smith, director of Sweetgrass Technical Institute. Students are learning about brakes, engines, transmissions, and other aspects of fundamental auto repair.

“I got to replace the timing belt in my personal truck and also the water pump system, so that was pretty cool,” student Ally Hitt said.

This summer, Hitt intends to work at a Livingston air station. She then plans to join the Air Force in the fall of 2023.

“I have this ’97 Honda Accord,” student Nate Cain said. “And it’s probably my favorite car I ever owned. It’s also the only car I’ve ever owned, which makes sense. I’ve replaced a lot on the car. It’s got 260,000 miles. I still drive it like it’s got five.”

“It’s certainly a new interest for me,” Cain added.

Trevor Clark, a student, also took his automobile into the shop for repairs.

“I started at home,” Clark said. “I took the whole front clip off at home. So, all that stuff is at my own shop. And I just decided to bring this in in, what… last month?”

“This one’s not perfect,” Clark continued. “It’s still a couple inches too long and too wide. So, right now we have to find ways to bolt the body to the frame.”

The program’s emphasis on community service is another important component. Director Casey Smith claimed that Reed Point High School helped them obtain a grant from Harbor Freight. The funding was intended to support community-building initiatives.

“We applied for it with the idea that we could use the money to help buy parts for vehicles for people that were struggling, having a tough time,” Smith said. “We had somebody donate a car to us that they wanted to go to somebody that needed a car. Between that and the grant money, we used that to fix everything that the car needed and got it to a family that was having a rough go. That was pretty cool. And we’re going to do some more things like that in the next few months.”

According to Smith, they intend to fix six or seven cars for people in need with additional grant money.

The community has supported us a lot,” he said. “And so, we like to do stuff for the community as well.”

According to Smith, there is a substantial local demand for people with knowledge of auto repair.

“Every time I talk to a dealership, they say, ‘Well, send all of your students to us. We’ll hire every one of them,'” Smith said.


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