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SEMA Program Inspires Next Gen Automotive Enthusiasts Through Customization

SEMA is partnering with five high school auto shop programs to provide students with real-world, hands-on experience. Parts manufacturers are invited to support Jeep Wrangler TJ builds by donating products or participating in school visits.

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SEMA is partnering with five high school auto shop programs throughout the country to introduce students to – and create excitement for – the automotive aftermarket through real-world, hands-on experience. The partnerships, which follow a successful pilot program model between SEMA and Santa Fe Early College Opportunities (ECO) High School’s automotive program in Santa Fe, New Mexico, involve students working alongside industry professionals on vehicle builds that will be auctioned off to raise money for ongoing, sustainable student customization builds.

Last year, more than 90 students took part in the modification of a 2015 4WD Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that sold for more than $56,000 through the Bring a Trailer Auction. The funds are being used this year to purchase a new vehicle that will serve as the platform for another student build at Santa Fe High School.

Other schools participating in this year’s program include C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge, Virginia; Comstock High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan; R.L. Turner High School in Carrollton, Texas; and Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in Santa Ynez, California.

“We didn’t know what to expect from the inaugural program, but seeing the students’ excitement, interest and growth was amazing,” said Wade Kawasaki, SEMA chairman of the board. “Many auto tech programs have limited funds and are unable to provide students with the type of experience that we’re giving them. We’re happy to be able to provide students with this unique opportunity to get them excited about the customization lifestyle. It’s encouraging to know that these kids will be contributing to the industry’s future.”

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More than 90 schools applied to participate in this year’s program, which is limited to five schools. Organizers hope to continue to roll the program out to even more schools next year.

“There is definitely strong interest and demand in the program,” said Chris Kersting, SEMA president and CEO. “And, going forward, we will be investigating ways in which we can expand the program so that more schools and students can participate.”

To help sustain the program, SEMA is relying on parts donations from automotive aftermarket parts manufacturer members. Products currently needed include suspension products, interior/exterior accessories, wheels and tires for 1997 through 2005 Jeep Wrangler TJs. Manufacturers interested in participating can submit details at sema.org/studentbuildor contact Katie Hurst, SEMA’s Youth Engagement Programs Manager, at [email protected].

The completed vehicles will be auctioned off to raise money for future vehicle builds, thereby creating a sustainable program at each school. For more information or details, visit sema.org/studentbuild.

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