SkillsUSA gives smiles to local families


Dusty Barron

Yule retool-- Senior Herman Pipkin works on a tire for a bicycle in fifth period auto tech class. The bicycle was one of approximately 43 to be delivered to underprivileged children with the Give a Child a Smile service project for SkillsUSA.

The Auto Tech SkillsUSA chapter will deliver approximately 43 bikes to the Westside Church of Christ on Dec. 22 as part of the Give A Child A Smile program.

  Student body president and SkillsUSA senior Sydni Spence implemented a joint effort wherein student council raised money to buy bike kits for more bikes to give away.

  “We build the bikes so that families who can’t afford Christmas presents for their kids can have the opportunity to give their kids a Christmas present that will make them happy,” Spence said. “It’ll also teach them that there is someone else in the community who cares about them. It shows the kids that they’re not alone, and even though their families don’t have the most money in the world, they’re still able to have a good Christmas because we as a community care for them.”

  Bicycle building is a welcome change to the auto tech students responsible for getting the bikes in working order. The students normally work on cars.

  “They like it, once we explain,” auto tech SkillsUSA sponsor Thomas Spence said. “We tell them that it helps kids here locally who don’t get Christmas presents or anything, and they understand. They know the benefits.”

  The holiday tradition started 18 years ago when former auto tech instructor Bob Summer collaborated with the Optimist Club. Because her father has been the auto tech teacher since they moved here, Sydni has been a part of the program since she was young.

  “My dad’s been doing it since then, building the bikes every year,” Sydni said. “I guess when I was little, I just wanted to follow him and be just like him. I followed him everywhere he went and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

  A lot of work went into preparing these gifts for underprivileged families. A change in scheduling caused the project to be moved up.

  “We usually start on the bikes right around Thanksgiving break,” Mr. Spence said. “This year, we got a whole week for Thanksgiving instead of a few days. We started a little earlier than normal.”

  The Auto tech SkillsUSA chapter received a list of families from the Optimist Club. Though bikes are the main focus, these families receive much more.

  “The Optimist Club picks the families,” Sydni said. “They tell us how many kids are in those families. We do a canned food drive and also collect toys as well as raise the money to build and refurbish bikes. Then, by Dec. 20 or so, we have a give-away where all the families come in. They get to pick clothes, toys, canned food and bikes. It isn’t just bikes, we help them with a lot of other necessities.”