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Transform Lake County helps transform college automotive programs

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Mar 10, 2021

More than 200 College of Lake County (CLC) students are on track to receive 100 percent of their college tuition, fees and materials paid for thanks to the Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) Grant, administered by the Illinois Community College Board, however they are not the only ones benefitting. CLC’s implementation of the grant, dubbed Transform Lake County, has also helped secure 22 new vehicles for the college’s automotive and automotive collision repair programs. 

“This has absolutely exceeded my expectations,” said Automotive Technology Department Chair Derrek Keesling. “This investment will easily impact the program for the next decade and allow us to remain up to date. It will also limit the operating expenses for that timeframe which in turn helps other programs.”

Photo: faculty, students and car dealer reps with some of the college's new vehicles

This also excites Jesus Ruiz, the dean of CLC’s Lakeshore Campus. “Once our WEI students are done with the cars, they become CLC property so students coming in after them will be able to take advantage of the cars as well.” 

A variety of vehicles were purchased to ensure the widest experience possible for students. What’s more, the vehicles were purchased from local dealerships including: Libertyville Chevrolet, Village Motors, Classic Automotive, Your Choice Auto, Mueller Honda and Gregory Mitsubishi. 

“It required a lot of partnerships,” said Ruiz. “We wanted to make sure the economic impact of the grant was shared within the community to include the businesses. After all they are the ones sustaining our economy in Lake County.” 

The partnerships didn’t stop once the vehicles were off the lot. Your Choice Auto, in Waukegan, is offering $200 off any vehicle to CLC students who show their college ID, while Gregory Mitsubishi is looking to hire several mechanics and paid interns from the college’s student ranks. It makes sense given these students now have access to some of the latest automotive technologies, also thanks to the grant. 

Cars 3“It’s giving us the tools that we’re going to need to be a sustainable program well into the future,” said Automotive Collision Repair Department Head Octavio Cavazos. “We’ve been able to bring in aluminum repair with the purchase of aluminum welders and construction of a clean room, and we were able to bring in plastic welding.”

Photo: the purchase involved several staff members as well

It’s clear CLC automotive students will leave their respective programs ready to jump start their careers, however knowledge and experience aren’t all they will take with them. For Transform Lake County students that includes a debt-free accreditation and something all mechanics need. 

“The grant paid for the cars, it’s paying for equipment, it’s paying for student fees and tuition and it’s also paying for any material the students use,” said Ruiz. “A lot of our students are getting bags full of tools that they’ll use, not only for what they’re doing here, but out in the professional world.” 

About College of Lake County: 

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.