Shawano auto shop shifts gears

Outside students form visiting class

Leader Photo by Scott Williams Josh Duhm, a student from Bonduel High School, tries his hand at welding in auto shop at Shawano Community High School.

Leader Photo by Scott Williams Instructor Jeremy Hodkiewicz, second from right, leads a discussion with students in Shawano Community High School’s new auto shop course for students from neighboring school districts.

Auto shop at Shawano Community High School is not just for Shawano students any more.

Endowed with perhaps the only such program in the county, administrators have invited students from neighboring school districts to enroll and learn auto shop on the Shawano campus.

Students from Bonduel, Wittenberg and Marion are among the first to get a chance at hands-on instruction inside Shawano Community High School’s full-size auto repair facility.

The students all travel to Shawano twice a week from their home high schools, none of which offers the same classroom experience for young people eager to learn automobile repair.

“It’s really cool,” said Josh Duhm, a senior at Bonduel High School. “I’ve learned a lot compared with what I would’ve learned in Bonduel.”

After hearing much interest from surrounding school districts, Shawano administrators this fall created an after-hours course that brings neighboring students together from 2-5 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday to learn auto shop in the same facility that Shawano kids use.

Students completing the 10-week program will receive the same combination of credit for a high school elective course and credit for a freshman introductory course at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

The program not only broadens the reach of Shawano’s popular auto shop curriculum, it also holds the promise of helping to fulfill an auto industry need for more trained mechanics and technicians.

Shawano Community High School Principal Scott Zwirschitz said administrators hope to repeat the course in future semesters as a way of continuing to build a cooperative relationship with neighboring school districts that cannot offer auto shop.

“We are fortunate because of our size that we have been able to not only keep our auto program, but to expand it,” Zwirschitz said. “We are happy to help out and work with local districts.”

Participating school districts have agreed to pay the Shawano district $350 per student for the 10-week course. The first 10 students enrolled in October and will complete the class later this month.

All of the students had shown an interest in auto shop, and all jumped at the chance when their home high schools asked if they wanted to study at SCHS, which has a full-size auto shop equipped with tools, machinery and donated vehicles.

Tommy Hangartner, a senior at Marion High School, said the course has allowed him to accelerate his training in something that he hopes to make a career.

“Coming into this class was amazing,” he said. “I jumped right into it.”

Another Marion senior, Kristin Haufe, said she has been tinkering with cars alongside her father since she was a little girl. Haufe said the Shawano course showed her that auto repair requires hard work and study.

“It was a little challenging at first,” she said. “But then I started getting the hang of it.”

The visiting students receive training from Jeremy Hodkiewicz, the same instructor who teaches various levels of auto shop to about 75 Shawano students each semester. Hodkiewicz, in his ninth year at Shawano, said students outside the Shawano district normally would have to travel to Green Bay or Wausau to find a high school with a comparable auto shop program.

Hodkiewicz said he was gratified to find neighboring students eager to tackle his program. The visiting students have gotten exposure to the full range of his introductory course, he said, adding that they have shown a healthy willingness to learn and work.

“I’m happy with the results,” he said. “I hope the kids feel like they’ve gotten something out of it.”