Here at TekPartners, one of our core values is “Make a Contribution” and every so often we hear about how one of our employees is quietly exemplifying this value without thought for recognition or reward. Jim Crocker, Program Director here at TekPartners, is one of those people. For the last 8 years, he has quietly made a difference in our local community through his involvement at the Youth Automotive Training Center (YATC). This specialized, tuition-free program educates disadvantaged young adults in basic automotive repair and life skills, as well as helping to prepare them for moving into careers and/or continuing their education after they graduate from the nine-month program.
Several years ago, TekPartners wanted to make a donation to a deserving organization during the holiday season. The YATC came up as a potential recipient that the team ultimately chose. Interested in learning more about the program up close and personal, Jim, Vito and Harris visited the school to see firsthand what the YATC did for the community. Deeply inspired by the school’s mission and impressed with the passion exhibited by its leaders, Jim decided that he wanted to do more to help on his own. The timing was perfect since they needed someone with his skillset to help teach the students, so the YATC offered him a spot on the advisory board. That was just the beginning.
Once part of the Advisory Board’s Job Prep committee, Jim was able to make an impact by helping students with their resume skills, searching for jobs, interview preparation, and by teaching them how to keep a job once they had one. For many of these students, this was the first time they would have the opportunity for a professional career path, so they needed to practice for the interview process, get a handle on what sort of questions interviewers might ask and learn how to respond.
Jim later became Vice Chair of the Advisory Board and eventually Chair of the Advisory Board as well as the Chair of the Job Preparation and Preparedness Committee. The Vice Chair of the Advisory Board and Chair of the Advisory Board also receive an automatic appointment to the Board of Directors. After his term was over, Jim stepped down from the Board of Directors, but remained a highly active part of the both the Advisory Board as well as the Committee Chair for the Job Preparation and Preparedness Committee in order to help as much as possible. His involvement on the Advisory Board has helped to grow the program and given him a chance to be a mentor to the students. In October of 2016, Jim was nominated and subsequently accepted the nomination of full-time member of the Board of Directors. As part of the Board of Directors Strategic Planning Committee, Jim also helps guide the future of the program.
While helping with activities such as mock interviews to teach the students what to improve and how the process works, he also gets to know them and hear their stories. Some of them have families of their own already and want to create a better life for their kids. Some are caring for older family members, or want to repay the kindness of parents or grandparents who are raising them. Many of the students come from difficult life situations, but the YATC gives them the hope for something better.
When asked about the program, Jim commented, “My meaning of life is children, providing a better place for children in the world.” He strives for this goal with each young person he connects with and mentors at the program. The aim is to help them change their lives and the YATC is doing just that. Jim will be there along the way because, as he puts it, “I’m in this until I’m no longer on this earth.” It is especially rewarding when he gets to hear from former students who have gone on to have successful careers and achieve their goals of providing a better life for their families.
The Youth Automotive Training Center is funded solely by generous donors and receives no government funding. It is a success because of support from the community both financially and through the efforts of people like Jim who donate their time and skills to helping the students. These local connections have also allowed many of the students to be placed into jobs with businesses in the area after graduation. The future looks bright for the YATC and we certainly look forward to seeing the school grow.