Arkansas State University - Newport

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ASUN Lobby
May 2019

Six Marked Tree high school students learn new skills in "shop class"

High school juniors and seniors face many decisions. They receive a lot of pressure to make the right decisions and meet expectations, but making a decision outside the norm may provide ample opportunities they didn’t know were possible. Six Marked Tree High School students are attending Arkansas State University-Newport at Marked Tree while still in high school and will graduate with the ability to go straight to work, earn a living and start a new career.

ASU-Newport strives to show students of all ages the opportunities available to them in higher education. From technical education programs to general education courses, the possibilities are endless. Furthermore, you no longer have to wait until after high school graduation to get started.

Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology students in front of the paint booth
Shane Mathews, Braden Francis, James Hindman and Angel Barnes inside the Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology Lab.

Four afternoons a week, these high school students take classes at ASUN-Marked Tree. Their courses of study are Automotive Service Technology or Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology. Both programs are a car lover’s dream. Not only do these careers tap into a person’s passion, they also provide an attractive living wage and job stability.

When taking a look inside the Automotive Service Technology lab, you may think you are inside a real shop. Cars and trucks are lifted off the ground ready to be serviced. That is where you will find Marked Tree High School students Andrew Stoddard and Tripp Evett. Daily, Stoddard and Evett get hands-on training working on real vehicles with real problems. They learn to diagnose and repair automobiles with the latest technology.

Andrew Stoddard inside the automotive lab.
Andrew Stoddard inside the Automotive Technology Lab. 

“I’ve learned a lot, and I really enjoy being in the lab every day,” Stoddard said.

As a junior, Stoddard just finished up his first year in the program. He will return to ASUN-Marked Tree for his senior year. When Stoddard graduates with his Marked Tree High School diploma, he will also graduate with a Certificate of Proficiency in Automotive Service Technology and his Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Entry Level Certification. These certifications allow graduates to be successful in the workforce or continue their education.

Stoddard with instructor Michael Nowlin.
Stoddard in the lab with Senior Instructor of Automotive Technology Michael Nowlin.

Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology also has a real-world “shop”. The lab has a number of bays for any type of vehicle and is equipped with a paint booth you’d see only in high-end shops. From sanding and painting to metal work and frame alignment, students get the hands-on training they need in a small class setting.

Marked Tree High School seniors Angel Barnes, Braden Francis, James Hindman and junior Shane Mathews are just getting started in ASUN’s Collision Repair program. They all agree it started out as an opportunity to try something different but found a love for the art of making something new again.

Hindman’s love for cars started at a young age inside his dad’s body shop in Jonesboro.

“I knew a lot about this type of work before starting the program, but I’ve learned even more at ASUN,” Hindman said.

After receiving his diploma, Hindman plans to go straight to work at the family business. The other students in Collision Repair will return to ASUN-Marked Tree. Barnes and Francis plan to enroll as college students to continue learning the craft, and Mathews will return his senior year to finish up his certificate.

Student mixing paint in Collision Repair.
Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology students mixing paint. 

“This is the best opportunity ever,” Barnes said.

Each student earns a Certificate of Proficiency in Painting and Color Matching. All four said they couldn’t recommend this program enough because they see the value of this career field and the endless possibilities.

According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, in Arkansas, automotive body repairers earn an annual mean wage of $41,500 and automotive service technicians and mechanics earn an annual mean wage of $37,710. The BLS also estimates, combined, there are more than 6,000 employment opportunities in Arkansas within these two fields.

Beyond the statistics, bringing high school students to a college campus has benefits. They are exposed to possible career paths before graduation, giving them plenty of time to explore their interests and passions. They graduate high school with work-ready credentials allowing them the choice to work while continuing their education and always having something to fall back on.

Matt Wright, Superintendent of Marked Tree School District, agreed it’s an opportunity to show students what options are out there beyond just a four-year college degree.

“Many people in schools and society are guilty of pushing kids towards four-year degrees, including myself,” Wright said. “However, our push should be to ensure that kids have the ability to learn a trade...something that will set them apart from the 350 million Americans they will compete against in the workforce.  ASUN gives our community and its students a unique opportunity to access that education with great ease.”

ASU-Newport hopes to bring even more high school students to campus with the goal of sharing even more opportunities with the students that will one day lead our communities.