Nashoba Tech, 1A Revamp Vehicle for Veterans
WESTFORD — Nashoba Valley Technical High School students are driven to give. This month, the Automotive Technology Department is partnering with 1A Auto to tune up and donate a used vehicle for veterans.
The teal 2008 Chevrolet Equinox will go to the nonprofit Travis Mills Foundation, which welcomes wounded veterans and their families to a free, all-inclusive vacation at a rustic Rome, Maine retreat. It will be used to transport visitors to and from the airport, according to 1A Auto Public Relations Manager John MacDonald.
“For us, it was a way to make an impact on a lot of veterans at once,” MacDonald said.
Around 210 families from 46 states have visited the retreat, according to the the foundation’s website.
MacDonald is an air force veteran himself, and first learned of the Travis Mills Foundation while volunteering at the Lowell-based Veterans Assisting Veterans.
United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills lost portions of his arms and legs in Afghanistan in 2012, and a year later founded an organization to help other injured post-9/11 veterans heal and bond. At the camp, families can rest or take part in activities from yoga to archery to canoeing.
“Travis Mills is just a great inspiration,” MacDonald said, who reached out about a month ago to see if the foundation was in need of a vehicle. When the foundation confirmed, 1A Auto contacted Nashoba Valley about collaborating to fix up a used sport utility vehicle to donate. Within a week, the Equinox wound up on a lift at the tech school, ready for work.
The SUV was in decent shape — many parts had already been replaced while the vehicle was a subject of over 100 of 1A’s popular how-to videos on YouTube.
A selected group of four Nashoba auto tech students will make necessary minor tune-ups this week, under the supervision of instructors Richard Karamanian and Joshua Morin.
In three or four days, they will conduct a safety inspection, perform an oil change, replace a faulty drive belt tensioner, replace spark plugs and spark plug wires, and clean the throttle body. Because the school operates on a rotating schedule, a new group of auto tech students will step in if work continues into next week.
Before lunch on Wednesday, students raised the SUV on a lift and removed the wheels for brake inspection. Every student in the shop was busy lifting hoods, tinkering underneath cars, and rummaging through toolboxes.
“It feels pretty good knowing that it [the vehicle] is going to the veterans,” said sophomore Jake Reese after he assisted classmate Joseph Lougbo in lifting off the Equinox’s last wheel.
Lougbo, who is also a sophomore, saw the opportunity as a chance to prove himself. “It kind of gives the teacher more trust with me... I can handle real-life situations,” he said.
After work is done under the hood, the Auto Body Department will give the SUV a full detail. The Television and Media Broadcasting program is also producing a video on the project.
“I see a strong opportunity for partnership [with Nashoba Valley],” said 1A President and Co-Founder Michael Green, whose father is an air force veteran.
The auto tech department has used 1A’s how-to videos as part of their curriculum. In the future, 1A plans on bringing its mechanics to host clinics at the school.
The 1A Auto crew will drive the refurbished Equinox to Maine in early June, where they will witness the Travis Mills Foundation’s impact firsthand.
“It’s nice to be able to pay something forward a little bit,” Morin said. The school donated about $200 worth of labor and material to the cause.
Plus, Morin added, “Nothing beats real world experience.” The students run a live auto shop where they work on six to 10 vehicles at a time. Morin estimates that the group of 33 students repairs around 250 cars per school year.
Passion projects like the collaboration with 1A Auto show students that they can make a difference, Morin said.
1A Auto will continue to donate vehicles to other nonprofit veterans’ organizations as frequently as possible — hopefully two or three times a year, MacDonald said. In the future, the auto parts shop will also donate vehicles to individual veterans.
MacDonald graduated Nashoba Valley Tech in 1989 as a plumber. ”[This project] instills some community involvement and community spirit... and that’s what the school gave me,” he said.
Nicole DeFeudis: @Nicole_DeFeudis on Twitter