By Eagle Staff
Thanks to racing legend Carroll Shelby, Northeast Texas Community College earns pole position in the race for national recognition in the field of automotive education.
In 2007, Shelby pledged more than $7000,000 to enhance NTCC’s automotive program. The Carroll Shelby Automotive Technology Center is reaping the benefits of this generous donation. Funds will be used to offer scholarships to incoming students, upgrade existing equipment, fund the new chairman as well as an additional instructor for the performance program.
Dr. Jon McCullough, NTCC vice president for Advancement, said offering young people an opportunity to obtain a career in the automotive field was one of Shelby’s main objectives for becoming involved with the program. “Mr. Shelby said he wanted to help that 25-year-old who is stuck running stock on a nightshift somewhere,” McCullough said. “He is providing an opportunity to students who might not have had an educational opportunity otherwise.”
According to Ronald Hillman, the new chairman of the program, what actually drives Shelby is his commitment to seeing that anyone who wants to get into the exciting field of automotive technology should have the opportunity to do so, regardless of their financial situation.
“He is going to make (the courses) available to those students who want to come to this program,” Hillman added, “by taking care of the tuition for them and giving them the opportunity to get into this industry.”
This commitment to students is evident with the $75,000 in funds that has already been contributed to the program, mostly in the form of scholarships.
Last November, Shelby officially gave the new program his name by cutting the ribbon during the first Team Shelby Texas Roundup Show and Shine gathering on the NTCC campus. The event was celebrated by hundreds of car enthusiasts including close to 100 Shelby car owners from across North Texas. During the ceremony Shelby told the crowd, “I’m more excited about this program than anything else that’s going on in my life right now.”
The new chairman shares in that enthusiasm saying NTCC’s affiliation with Carroll Shelby “is hugely instrumental; it’s the basis of the success of this program.”
Hillman, who holds a bachelor’s degree in occupational education and a master’s in business, has spent his whole life involved in the automotive industry in some aspect. His hero is Carroll Shelby. The first car he ever raced was a 1966 Mustang Fastback. And because he couldn’t afford the Shelby version on a young teen’s salary, he built it into a Shelby 350 “look-alike.”
Now, all those years later, the prospect of building a nationally recognized automotive program with the Carroll Shelby name affixed to it, is a dream-come-true job for him.
As chairman of the new curriculum, Hillman’s duties will include working with the community and business sector, marketing of the program, helping with recruiting, looking for job placement opportunities, and searching for donations, such as vehicles for the students to work on.
And plans for the future of the program are speeding right along. Hillman’s vision is not only to expand the current program, but to also develop the Shelby Performance Academy. Hillman says the word “Performance” is a gentleman’s term for the word “racing.” And he wants the program to have national recognition.
Hillman said the current program is similar to those at other two-year colleges, but he plans to change that. “That’s the whole thing,” he said. “I’ve got to make ours different.”
Hillman’s goal for the new program is to take students to the next level as an automotive technician – that being a “mod-shop technician.”
The term “mod-shop” encompasses many aspects of modifications to automobiles; from adding car body ground effects to modifying high-end muscle cars to building professional racecars and dragsters.
“We’re the only program in the nation that can say we are the Carroll Shelby Automotive Program,” Hillman said. “You can’t put a number on what that’s worth. That makes us unique. One of the reasons we’re going to have the Shelby Academy is to give us something else, something to allow us to compete...”
Students already enrolled in the NTCC automotive program are excited to have the Shelby influence. Ty Barnwell, Noe Tellez, Andy Roach, Joshua Mendoza and Steven Simers all said they love working on cars and are learning how to do things they didn’t know before.
All five of them are working toward an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Automotive Specialization. Four of the five have plans to work for a dealership, while one, Tellez, wants to eventually open his own business. And Barnwell would like to get into alternative fuels and the bio-diesel industry.
They all agreed that Shelby has done a lot for muscle cars; he revolutionized racing and, at least according to them, he was way ahead of his time.
They also consider their instructor, Larry Derrick, an articulate and knowledgeable man of both the workforce courses and the technician’s program, calling him the “best teacher on campus.”
Under Derrick’s supervision, the curriculum includes such topics as brake systems, steering suspension, engine performance and engine rebuilding. They also learn how to interpret computer codes and engine lights using computerized diagnostic equipment.
Students in the program have the option to either obtaining their associate’s degree or certificates in specialized areas. The difference between the two programs is that the degree requires a student to take certain core classes such as college-level math, business computer applications, English composition, humanities and a social/behavioral science class.
Derrick said the Shelby program would be in advance of the regular curriculum program. “So, you would basically have to take all of the workforce classes; it doesn’t have to be for the degree, it could be for a certificate,” he explained. “Once you complete all that, you could then enroll in the high-performance aspect of it, which would be the Shelby part.”
One of Hillman’s main objectives for advancing the program is to find the right person for the Performance Academy instructor. He said the person must have experience as an automotive technician, have mod shop knowledge and racing expertise, among other things.
Hillman said an additional challenge of the program would be finding students who have a real passion for the automotive industry.
He’s looking for “the kid who has had car pictures on his wall since he was eight years old or younger. He lives and breathes cars. He’s been reading car magazines all his life. He’s passionate about making cars go fast.” It’s that kind of individual who will make it to the top level as a Performance Technician.
McCullough said another one of Shelby’s future visions for the program is to possibly build a test track on the NTCC campus. “He said, ‘hey, if we’re going to build that muscle car, we’ll need a track to test it on, ” McCullough said.
NTCC will be running an advertisement on the Speed Channel to promote the program in the near future. The video portion of the ad was filmed at the Automotive Center a couple of weeks ago.
Hillman said the Shelby name would serve as a major boost on the way to gaining national recognition of the program. “Obviously the name doesn’t have a price tag,” he said. “We’re the only school that can say we’ve got the Carroll Shelby name.”
McCullough agreed adding, “I don’t think people have actually realized the national impact that having his name is going to bring to this college.
Hillman’s main goal for the technician’s program and the performance academy is, of course, success.
“The success of these programs will be measured by the success of the students, Hillman said. “And I want them to be the best they can be.”