Hayden Beard and Daniel Williams, rising seniors at Clinton High School, know their way around an automobile. This summer, the two automotive technology students, mentored by their instructor Charlie Melton at the Clinton High School Career Complex, finished in sixth place at the national Ford/AAA Automotive Skills contest in Dearborn, Mich.
It was no small feat for these young men to get to the competition. In addition to being enrolled in Melton’s automotive technology courses where they received hands-on, technology-based training, they committed to 3 days per week of additional after-school coaching and practicing for 6 months in preparation for the state-level hands-on contest, which involved both a written exam and technical applications. Beard and Williams won the state competition, the sixth team from Clinton High School to do so in the last 7 years. As state champions, they earned the honor of representing Mississippi as two of the top 100 automotive technology students in the country.
“Every student wants to go [to the national competition],” said Melton, “because when they go to Dearborn, they treat them like kings. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
With their strong finish at nationals, Beard and Williams each came home with $50,000 in scholarships. Beard plans to attend automotive school after graduation. Williams, while not yet decided, has many options that he can pursue.
As Melton, himself a 25-year automotive-field veteran, reminds all his students, they have something else that will serve them well, no matter what path they choose – a proven skill with real-world experience – which is indispensable in today’s job market.