High schoolers swap notes on attending ‘A school’

Mechanic A Students.
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© Andrea Howry/Lighthouse
Four of the Channel Islands High School students who attended the Construction Mechanic A School at the Naval Construction Training Center at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, pose with their automotive instructor in front of the new auto shop being built on the high school campus. Pictured from left are Manuel Mercado, Bryan Arangorin, instructor Jonathan Throckmorton, Pablo Diaz and Arturo Santiago. © Andrea Howry/Lighthouse
Half of the Channel Islands High School students who have gone through the Navy’s Construction Mechanic A School in Port Hueneme are now interning in the service departments of local car dealerships something they say probably wouldn’t have happened had they not gone through the program.

“In the military program, I got to see how everything works together, and that’s probably the most important thing,” said Pablo Diaz, 17, who’s now an intern at DCH Toyota of Oxnard.

“The foundation in mechanics was incredible,” said Manuel Mercado, 18, who is interning alongside Pablo.

“It taught me a good attitude,” said Bryan Arangorin, 18, who’s interning at DCH Honda of Oxnard. “I learned the importance of punctuality as well as good study skills.

“I learned how to work.”

The Naval Construction Training Center at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, allowed Pablo, Manuel, Bryan and two other Channel Islands High School students to go through the 11-week A school curriculum alongside Navy and Air Force students. Two students from Hueneme High School are currently finishing up the program, along with another Channel Islands student, Andrew Geer, 17.

Pablo, Manuel and Bryan, together with Arturo Santiago, 18, talked earlier this month about being able to attend the NCTC school and whether they think it made a difference in their education.

“It was a great opportunity to learn a lot of skills compared to what I’ve been learning in high school,” Bryan said. “I think it gave me a better chance of getting the internship.”

Arturo plans to enlist in the Air Force after he graduates.

“I enjoyed the experience of being around military people,” he said.

It is still undecided whether he will need to repeat A school after boot camp; his case is being reviewed.

NCTC Chief Construction Mechanic Jeff Bright said coursework credit is something that needs to be examined as the program continues. Currently, high school students receive only credits toward high school graduation, even though they’re on base from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. five days a week and do independent study for the rest of their classes outside of that schedule.

The automotive teacher at Channel Islands High School agrees that needs to be changed.

“Their schedule is pretty intense,” said Jonathan Throckmorton. “These kids are working hard.”

He appreciates the Navy giving his students this opportunity.

“They’re learning a good work ethic,” he said. “It’s beneficial in so many ways.”

So do the A school graduates have advice for the next incoming class?

“Be prepared to wake up early,” Pablo said.

“Be dedicated and committed to the program,” Manuel said. “Do what they tell you to do, and you’ll get a lot out of it.”

Bryan compares the program to a community college curriculum.

“You’ll have access to a program that’s like what you’d get at a vocational school or a community college and you don’t have to pay for it,” he said. “You start having good work experience, too. It looks good on a resume.”

Arturo’s advice was simple:

“Stay dedicated,” he said. “And have fun.”

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