With no high school diploma and no long-term job prospects, Cesar Salcedo knew he needed to do something to steer his life in the right direction.
A friend told him about the Youth Automotive Training Center in Deerfield Beach. Less than a year later, the 20-year-old Pompano Beach man not only has a job in the automotive industry, but also a solid plan in mind.
"I feel great because I actually accomplished something. Before, I was just working a part-time job, trying to get my GED and going nowhere," said Salcedo, who works part-time at Tire Kingdom.
Salcedo is one of 24 young adults now hoping they are on the road to success after completing the nine-month program. The class of 2012, ranging in age from 16 to 21, became the 33rd class to graduate from the center when they celebrated with family and friends at the JM Family Enterprises Aviation Facility in Fort Lauderdale.
Created by Jim Moran in 1984, the program is geared toward training and educating at-risk and disadvantaged youths in basic automotive repair skills, providing academic help, and helping develop job readiness and life management skills.
"The program is run in hopes of refocusing their lives and getting them back into being productive members of society," said Terry Routley, the center's executive director.
Students are referred in a variety of ways, but that doesn't guarantee admission. Routley said prospective students have to go through the interview process. Once the school year begins, they are in class Monday to Friday, attending automotive lectures and labs and academic programs. Program organizers often bring in guest speakers who talk about life skills — everything from personal finance to goal setting, anger management, coping with on-the-job stress and preparing for job interviews.
Salcedo received the Jump Start Award for excellence in automotive knowledge and repair skills. Jordan Moody, 21, was presented with the Outstanding Attendance Award, and Joshua Daniels, 19, received the Turnabout Award.
The Bruce Rossmeyer Memorial Kick Start Scholarship Award was given to Derick Andrade, 19. Andrade is the third recipient to receive the full-paid tuition scholarship to attend a technical/vocational school to further his training in the automotive industry.
Salcedo plans to earn his GED and continue his studies in Broward College's automotive technology program. The long-term goal is to one day open his own automotive shop.
"Just to be involved with them for nine months and see where they started and the accomplishments they have made, it is tear-jerking," Routley said.
For more information, visit http://www.yatc.org or call 954-428-0909