The Cars for Career program at Laurel Oaks Career Campus is a unique way to assist students as they start on a career.
“Students in rural areas struggle with transportation to get to work,” said Jack Wessel, one of the program’s founders. “Even if they have the necessary skills to do the job, they have difficulty getting there.”
As luck would have it, while Wessel was thinking about how to solve the problem, an opportunity was presented to Industrial Diesel Mechanics Instructor Gary Bronson.
“Over the last few years, vehicles have been donated to the program to help with instruction and student learning,” said Bronson. “A member of my church approached me with two cars she wanted to donate directly to students in need.”
Wessel’s idea and Bronson’s connections came together at the right time to form the program.
Bronson’s students inspected both cars, wrote up the necessary repairs, formulated a budget, and through the support of the Great Oaks Education Foundation, purchased the needed parts to make each vehicle fully safe and operational for students to travel back and forth to work.
While repairs were being made, Wessel created the framework for the program. For students to be eligible to receive a vehicle, they had to be enrolled in Laurel Oaks’ drug-free program “Clean for My Career,” maintain specific grades, and have good attendance. On top of that, students must have a valid driver’s license, be able to purchase insurance for the vehicle, be ready for job placement with the school, and agree to work with Wessel on personal finance courses to set students up with plans for future success.
Within a few weeks, the first vehicle was donated to an Auto Collision student who fit all criteria and who school staff agreed was a great example of what Laurel Oaks students do every day.
Since the inception of the program in April of 2019, two vehicles have been properly serviced for student needs and two other vehicles were donated over the summer for the upcoming school year.
“My students have taken on the challenge and have learned a lot through the process,” Bronson says. “We are proud of what they have accomplished.”
“When Gary Bronson, Industrial Diesel Mechanics instructor, and Jack Wessel, intervention apecialist, decided to enter the field of education, they did it with the goal of helping to improve the lives of students and remove barriers for student success,” said Laurel Oaks Assistant Dean Mike Hart. “That is exactly what they did by creating the Cars for Careers program.”
On top of helping students get reliable transportation, Wessel also works with students to help them get their driver’s license if needed.
“Many of our students wait until they’re 18 years old to get their license due to the high cost of driver’s education classes,” said Wessel. “We’ve used some great resources through the Great Oaks Education Foundation to help pay for these classes, and in some cases, helped students through the process of scheduling and passing their driving tests.
The Cars for Careers Program was recently recognized nationally by Channellock. Visit Channellock’s Facebook page to see the video at
Visit the Great Oaks Foundation web page at www.greatoakseducationfoundation.org for more information on its mission and ways to help.
Submitted by Jon Weidlich, director of community relations, Great Oaks Career Campuses.