South County Beat

AGHS students get their education into gear

Special to The TribuneMay 7, 2013 

Students Misty Jackson and Austin Greene work on a car in the auto shop at Arroyo Grande High School.


When 17-year-old Austin Greene got his first car — a 1989 Nissan — he “didn’t know the distributor from the alternator.”

He enrolled in the automotive technology program at Arroyo Grande High School as a junior, which gives him the chance to work on his car and learn. He says getting the “wrench time” will prepare him to become a mechanic in the Marine Corps.

Automotive technology is part of the new Career Pathways programs of study — three yearlong courses designed to prepare AGHS students in various career technical training programs for the work world.

Nancy Miller, director of special programs, who joined the district last year, said she was “attracted to the innovation and getting a chance to work for a very progressive school district” that was “presenting different and exciting education models.”

Automotive technologies instructor Jason Stewart said the shop has been remodeled. Last year, for example, they had just one classroom with no computers, no modules, just some parts and cars. Now they have an expanded new classroom filled with computers, modules and stations.

They have braking, electronics, air conditioning areas and a hybrid vehicle trainer — the first in the state. The computer diagnostic tool allows students to have a virtual simulation of auto systems before going into the garage. Next year they hope to provide the students an industry certification upon graduation.

Stewart graduated from AGHS, took auto shop, worked at a local auto shop and graduated from Cal Poly. After years in social services, he came home to teach automotive technology here.

“I also feel it’s important to teach job skills ... to get and keep a job. I am helping my students better prepare for life,” he emphasized.

Miller said, “We’re in the process of developing a fall 2014 electric vehicle conversion course, so students will learn about electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and fuel cell technology.”

The students have four options upon graduation: go to work, college (both local junior colleges have great auto programs), military, or trade schools (none local).

Misty Jackson, 18, took the class because “everyone should know the basics.” Next year at Cuesta College she hopes to study automotive tech, cosmetology or child development. “I love Jason Stewart — he’s a good teacher and answers your questions, and if you look clueless, he breaks it down,” she added.

In addition to automotive technology, other Career Pathway programs include agriculture, early childhood education, engineering and architecture, health sciences, food services and hospitality, and patient care. More options are planned for next year.

The program is looking for parents, business owners and industry representatives to get involved in the Career Pathways programs as classroom speakers, mentors, advisory committee members, and to provide internships, or donate equipment and money for scholarships.

On Thursday the Agricultural and Career Technical Educational Facilities is inviting the public to a grand opening ceremony at AGHS from 4 to 6 pm. There will be student-led tours, demonstrations, and culinary arts sampling.

For more information, contact Nancy Miller at 474-3900 or Amy Jacobs at 474-3000, ext. 1083.

Gayle Cuddy’s column is special to The Tribune. She and Cynthia Lambert write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cuddy at 489-1026 or

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