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The program started in fall 2015 and now serves six school districts and more than 100 students, including those from Sherwood, Canby, Newberg, North Marion, Tigard-Tualatin and West Linn-Wilsonville

BARBARA SHERMAN - Sherwood High School student Brenton (foreground) works on his truck in the World of Speed shop assisted by his friend Brenden, noting that he prefers using a hydraulic lift to lying in the mud under his truck.Just a few miles away from Sherwood is World of Speed in Wilsonville, where 21 Sherwood High School students recently graduated from its automotive program.

This innovative program is the result of a partnership between several school districts, World of Speed and Clackamas Community College, according to the World of Speed website. CCC provides the instructors and curriculum, and World of Speed provides the classrooms, technology, tools and automotive bays.

Students take part in classes such as automotive fundamentals, general auto repair and small engine repair. In addition to the CCC curriculum, students get the opportunity to hear industry professionals share their experiences.

The program started in fall 2015 and now serves six school districts and more than 100 students, including those from Sherwood, Canby, Newberg, North Marion, Tigard-Tualatin and West Linn-Wilsonville. Students earn community college credits along with their high school credits.

SHS got on board for the winter trimester this year, according to SHS Principal Ken Bell, who was at the facility May 25 for his students' graduation from the program, which ran Monday through Friday from 8 to 10 a.m.

"This facility is amazing – it is really top of the line," Bell said before the graduation ceremony. "We can't build a facility like this, and it is only 20 minutes away."

Key to connecting all the dots was Teresa Swake, SHS math teacher, department coordinator and advance programs coordinator, who also was on hand for the graduation along with Gary Bennett, the school district's assistant superintendent.

"This has been a marvelous opportunity for some of our students to engage in real-world application of education," Swake said. "Some are even moving into post-secondary programs aimed at automotive and heavy-equipment training.

"When I first came here, I thought, we could never build something to this scale, and to think that this facility is giving opportunities to our kids is amazing. This is good for the kids and good for the economy and will provide jobs."

In his remarks during the ceremony, Bell noted that "we try to provide something for everyone at Sherwood High School, and we knew there was interest in automotive classes. But this would be a hard program to build at a high school.

"We are so thankful to World of Speed and Clackamas Community College for this opportunity. Our students have made us proud, and we will continue our partnership with World of Speed. But none of this would have happened without Teresa Swake."

As part of the ceremony, after each student was called up to the front of the room to receive his or her certificate, the three Sherwood administrators were presented with a giant metal license plate bearing the name "SHERWOOD."

David Bany, who started World of Speed in April 2015 with his wife Sally, said he has always been interested in cars.

"Sally and I talked about doing something with cars and thought maybe we'd buy an old A&W, fix it up and create a gathering place for people interested in cars," Bany said.

Then the opportunity to purchase the former Wilsonville Dodge dealership complete with 11 automotive bays came along, and in addition to a huge shop area, it had room for such amenities as a first-class lounge, a museum, a car-themed kids' play area, classrooms and a gift shop.

"We were looking for something along I-5, and this building came up," Bany said. "We thought it was too big, but it has worked out, and we formed a connection with CCC."

Bany credits Lewis Fergusen, his director of education, with setting up the educational component with area school districts. People can donate vehicles to be worked on, Ford brought in six with problems to be diagnosed, and the students can bring in their own vehicles to work on.

BARBARA SHERMAN - Posing with the SHS autmotive class graduates at World of Speed are (third and fourth from left) Assistant Superintendent Gary Bennett and SHS Principal Ken Bell, along with Teresa Swake, SHS advance program coordinator, holding a SHERWOOD license plate gift.Once the graduation ceremony was over and the students had received their certificates, everyone moved downstairs to the spotless shop where students either went back to work on vehicles, gave tours or answered questions.

Brenton, who was working on his own truck, said, "I like working on things, and this opportunity came up. I was taking a small engines class and thought, let's try World of Speed. I've gotten a lot done on my truck that I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise. And working on it here using a hydraulic lift beats lying in the mud."

His friend Brenden, who was assisting Brenton, added, "I've been into cars and machinery, and this was a good opportunity to learn more. Maybe this will be my career."

Another student, Brett, who also worked on Bowmen House III, said, "I thought it would be really cool to use a lift, and this class helps get me through the day. We're here in the shop every day this trimester, while our first trimester was more time in the classroom."

Student Rachel said she took shop classes at SHS, and the automotive class interested her as well. "It's really fun, and we have a lot of free range but under guidance," she said. "I have no idea what I will do for a career but this will be a hobby. I have a truck of my own, and this is a good way to hang out with friends."

Student Kaitlyn said she had worked on cars with her dad the last couple years, "and I taught him some things." She added that the automotive class "was pretty much what I expected, but it's nice we can bring our own vehicles to work on, and they have really high-end tools."

Taking it all in was Swake, who said, "This is making me a little weepy. We worked so hard to get to this point, and some of these students were struggling. It's been neat to watch the kids grow.

"There are attendance and grade requirements for students to be in the program, and it is limited to juniors and seniors because they must be able to drive themselves. This has become another SHS tradition, and we will keep coming up with more of these. Programs like this have literally kept kids in school."

Swake continued, "World of Speed has been wonderful. They are so motivated and have been so responsive to everything I've asked of them," and Bany added, "This is a community partnership, and we want to get up to 200 students a day."

The World of Speed onsite educational museum features historic race cars, boats and motorcycles and encompasses many aspects of motorsports, including drag racing, road racing, land-speed racing, motorcycle racing, open-wheel cars, NASCAR and hydroplanes. Special exhibits include the Daytona Banking Wall, the Wall of Sound, Women in Racing and the History of Northwest Drag Racing. Visitors can take a spin in one of three simulators that provide behind-the-wheel experiences of driving an iconic Formula, Indy or NASCAR race car. 

World of Speed is located at 9740 S.W. Hillman Court, Suite 200, Wilsonville.