Davie students win Top Tech Auto Challenge

Published 9:11 am Thursday, April 28, 2022

By Jeanna Baxter White

Word Master Media Group

Davie High seniors Jonah Longworth and Zachary Blalock won the Top Tech Challenge at UTI/NASCAR Insitute in Mooresville. They earned $10,000 scholarships, plus a Snap-on toolbox and tools for the automotive program at Davie High.

“I am blessed to always have a few very passionate students dedicated to improving their lives by taking CTE (Career and Technical Education) classes,” said Seth James, automotive technical teacher. “These two young men have put forth so much effort and to say I am proud of them is an understatement. Whoever hires them will enjoy them as employees, they are what you are looking for nowadays.”

The students competed against teams from North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The competition was based on skills learned through Automotive Service Level III and involved a written test and hands-on tasks including parts and tools identification as well as basic vehicle diagnostics such as electrical, drive train, steering, and suspension.

The duo placed fourth last year against seniors. “This time we knew what we were doing,” said Blalock.

Having grown up around cars, taking automotive classes was a natural choice for Blalock.

“When I took the entry-level class, Mr. James saw something in me that I didn’t.” That support compelled him to take all of the automotive classes the high school offers. He also works part-time at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts. Blalock is deciding which school he would like to attend and what area of automotive technology he wants to study.   

“I’ve always been into cars. My dad always worked on cars and I hung out with him while he was doing it,” said Longworth. He, too, has taken all of Davie High’s automotive classes.

“It’s a good program and Mr. James is a great teacher.” Longworth enjoys his job at Modern Auto Extras, which specializes in vehicle upgrades like wheels and tires and lift kits, and plans to stay in that field.

They both expressed their gratitude for James and the opportunities that they’ve had through the automotive program. “We wouldn’t be where we are without Mr. James,” said Blalock.

James hopes that news of their success will help shine a light on the hands-on career and technical education classes at the high school.

Career and Technical Education programs include career skills training that helps students become ready for college or work. CTE curriculum focuses students on academic, employability, and technical skills used in a specific occupation. A key component to the success of CTE programs is that students can find connections between their academic coursework and their career goals, making high school a more relevant, and engaging, experience for students.

“I don’t know that all parents understand that these classes will prepare their students for a hands-on career that offers job security. After the pandemic, if you looked at who the essential workers were, it was pretty much the people in the areas we are teaching here.”

Davie High offers CTE pathways in agriculture; business, finance, and marketing education; computer science/IT; family & consumer science; health science; technology, engineering & design; and trade & industry.

To further enhance the students’ learning opportunities, Davie High also offers a chapter of SkillsUSA. SkillsUSA is a career and technical student organization serving more than 395,000 high school, college, and middle school students and professional members enrolled in training programs in trade, technical, and skilled service occupations, including health occupations.

The SkillsUSA website explains that its activities and competitions help students develop positive attitudes, build self-esteem and empower them to excel. They give students a head start in developing valuable professional skills such as communications, interpersonal abilities, time management, teamwork, and more. Because SkillsUSA works hand-in-hand with business and industry, students get the skills employers want.

Fifteen students, including Blalock and Longworth, competed in masonry, construction, automotive, health sciences, and drafting during the Northwest Region SkillsUSA Rally at Wilkes Community College on Feb. 28. The following top-five will compete at the state level on April 28th.

• Automotive Beginner: Jonathan Gunter, first;  Conner Lewis, second.

• Automotive Service Technology: Zach Blalock, fifth.

• Construction Core: Logan Miller, first: Rylan Koontz, second.

• First Aid-CPR: Ben Hoke, first.

• Masonry 1: Ashton Douglas, second; Carter Cuthrell, third.

• Medical Terminology: Anna Lowery, third.

•Technical Drafting: Slade Keaton, first; Palmer Williams, second; Josh Clark, fourth.

“We are doing great things and pushing these kids to get out of their comfort zone to be leaders. We are really trying to prepare them for the workforce, as much as possible, which is our ultimate goal in CTE,” said James.

There are numerous costs associated with participating in competitions like these.

To raise funds for the Davie High Chapter of SkillsUSA, DCHS will host the Spring Fling Auto Show on Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Davie County High School, 180 War Eagle Drive, Mocksville. This family-friendly event will feature classic cars, sports cars, race cars, and more. The rain date is May 14.