AURORA | Justin Fortney, a 17-year-old Cherokee Trail High School student, appears deep in thought huddled under a Chevy sedan examining rotors and brake pads on a wheel. He’s the kind of kid who loved knowing how things worked growing up.
“Even if I get something small like a pen, I’ll just sit there and take it apart and put it back together,” he explained.
Fortney is one of 106 students participating in the Aurora Youth 4 Success Program, where he is taking a popular course in automotive. Going into its sixth year, the camp is held from 11:30 am to 3 pm for three weeks in July at Pickens Technical College.
What Fortney said he liked most about the class is that he doesn’t have to take tests. He added that it’s better than signing up for an eight-month automobiles course that can cost hundreds of dollars. The three-week camp, with lunch
included, is only $55. “It’s interesting because most of the guys in this class wanted to take automotive, or have worked on their cars before, or have worked in a garage or with their dads,” he said. “We’re actually having fun. It’s not like we were forced to come here. A lot of us chose to do it on or own.”
The camp is for students who may not be able to afford a typical summer program, said Aurora state Sen. Nancy Todd, who created it with her husband, Terry, and Peggy Rudden, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children. The camp provides transportation from Aurora Central, Hinkley, Overland and Rangeview high schools to Pickens Tech for the students.
Over the years, the program has grown to offer seven courses that include cosmetology, culinary arts and engineering. The newest class is on 3-D printing. Nancy Todd added that the program is independent from a school district and operates based on donations and gifts. But she said she works closely with Aurora and Cherry Creek superintendents to get the word out through annual robocalls about the camp to parents.
Students need to either live in Aurora or attend an Aurora high school to participate. “It’s meant to break down barriers between Aurora and Cherry Creek, and bring students together who live in the city of Aurora,” she said.
The program also offers daily lunches where speakers from Colorado companies such as Lockheed Martin, Comcast and Xcel Energy talk to students about their industries. Steffi Omadio, a sophomore-to-be in the fall at Rangeview, said the lunches are a good pairing with a class she’s taking that teaches students about applying for college, creating resumes and cover letters and sharpening interview skills.
“I’ve learned a lot about what colleges I could go to, and what jobs would be the best fit for me,” she said. She said when she graduates, she wants to attend University of Colorado’s aerospace program.
Learn more about Aurora Youth 4 Success at rmrpi.org/aurora-youth-4-success.html