The program helps automotive students gain invaluable practical skills

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ROME- Rome Free Academy senior Joe Corigliano admits he’s not exactly the best student in a class – but give him an educational experience outside of it where he can actually learn by doing, and he said he excels.

Madison-Oneida BOCES in Verona offers an integrated program for its auto collision repair students to take classes and work daily at the CARSTAR Davidson Collision facility on Rome-Taberg Road.

Corigliano, who has had an affinity for cars since he was young restoring a 1981 Buick Regal with his uncle, is part of this program. He said he particularly enjoys performing oil changes, changing tires and getting under a car when it’s on the lift.

“I’m more of a hands-on person rather than spending time sitting in a classroom,” he explained. “Being here makes our class more fun and interesting.”

Corigliano plans to continue his education at trade school after graduating next year with the goal of becoming a high-performance technician working on sports cars, possibly even with NASCAR. He said he hopes to one day build his own high-performance car.

The MOBOCES/Davidson partnership aims to make this possible.

Teacher Ryan Tabolt and Teaching Assistant Ashley Esengard teach at Davidson’s premises. Most of their time is spent working at dealership stations, hanging out with Davidson professionals in collision repair, parts, service, detailing and even on the sales floor selling vehicles.

The MOBOCES course lasts two years, with juniors studying on campus and seniors going to CARSTAR. There are currently 16 students in the two sections. Tabolt said his own MOBOCES mentor, Phil Helmer, took a similar course at Nye Automotive in Oneida and that inspired Tabolt to approach owner Jon Davidson to do the same at his Rome factory.

“I thought it was a really great way to teach students,” Tabolt said. “It’s not as scary as finding a job somewhere because they always have their teacher with them when they need advice. It’s a safe place to learn.

This is their second year working at the Davidson plant.

Esengard said students have class work in a dedicated room there, but most of their time is spent working with Davidson staff. They normally alternate between jobs each grading period, unless they have found a place they really enjoy and want to stick with it. Students make regular reports, have homework and weekly tests.

They can complete the program with up to four different entry-level automotive service excellence certifications, Esengard added. They can also gain technical endorsement for their Regents degrees by passing a nationally recognized industry exam.

Davidson Parts Manager Ryan Alger agreed that the integrated program provides educational opportunities far beyond what students might receive in a classroom alone. And their technicians — who are paid on a flat rate — are happy to take the extra time to show the next generation of auto industry workers what it’s like to work at a dealership, he said.

“It’s a great experience for these young adults to come out and see how it all works from the inside,” Alger explained. “Instead of sitting in a classroom, it allows them to see the process from the technician’s perspective. They all work together like a well-oiled machine.

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