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Auto tech students secure scholarships
Car from dealership helps them prepare
Auto WEB
Forsyth Central Automotive Technology students Dustin Tucker, left, Shawn Sutton and Blake Michal stand with a car similar to the one they used to practice for the AAA Ford State Competition. The students won scholarships for their efforts. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Three Forsyth Central High School students took home substantial scholarships after success in state and national automotive competitions.

The team of senior automotive technology students Dustin Tucker and Blake Michal placed 15th at the National Automotive Technology Competition in New York.

In addition, Michal teamed up with fellow student Shawn Sutton, also a senior, for the AAA Ford State Competition in Marietta. Michal and Sutton placed second in that event.

Both competitions were held in April.

Of the national event, Michal said it was “an honor” to compete.

“But it was nerve racking,” he said. “We slept 11 hours afterwards. We were going to take a nap after lunch, and didn’t wake up until 6 o’clock the next morning.”

Tucker said while he enjoyed competing, he wasn’t as thrilled with the flight, which was his first time on a plane.

“I’m definitely not planning a trip back to New York any time soon,” he said, noting that the flight experienced a lot of turbulence. “And of course the pilot had to tell us that some parts were missing [on the plane’s wing].”

For their efforts at the event, in which they worked on a Lexus for six hours over two days, both received $2,000 in scholarship money.

Their instructor, Marlo Miranda, said his students have been allowed to skip qualifying events for the national competition the past two years due to the program’s partnership with the Metro Atlanta Auto Dealers Association.

“They’ve just called us and asked if we wanted to participate,” Miranda said. “They just took who they felt were the best [high school automotive teams] in the state.”

Michal and Sutton both also earned $21,000 in scholarship funds at the AAA Ford State Competition for their second-place finish.

Miranda said his students have been participating in the Ford competition for several years and each year gets much support from Billy Howell Ford.

“The people there are very gracious,” Miranda said. “When competition season rolls around, that’s when they really shine because they take a car out of inventory to have the boys practice on.”

This year, he said, the team had the vehicle for about three weeks leading up to the competition, in which they had to identify and repair a set of problems.

Mike Kelley, assistant service manager, said he and others at the dealership are happy to help the students prepare each year.

“These guys are the future,” he said. “It’s refreshing to see someone with so much enthusiasm.”

Miranda said he was “really proud” of all three students.

“It takes a lot to prepare for these competitions … they’re at the worst time of the [school] year because it’s hard to find time to practice when they’re working on finals, AP tests and getting ready for graduation,” he said. “But they put in the hours on Saturdays, Sundays and before and after school.

“I couldn’t be more happy with their performance and their work ethic and integrity.”