Above, Jaspal Dhillon, left and teammate Ivan Reyes compete in the semifinals of the National Automotive Technology Competition.

Automotive students Jaspal Dhillon and Ivas Reyes are flanked by instructor Joe Agruso, left, and Bob Smith, a representative of the Greater Los Angeles New Car Dealers.
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Automotive students Jaspal Dhillon and Ivas Reyes are flanked by instructor Joe Agruso, left, and Bob Smith, a representative of the Greater Los Angeles New Car Dealers.

Two Van Nuys High School seniors earned record-high scores in the semifinal round of the National Automotive Technology Competition, winning $10,000 in prizes for themselves, a Chevrolet Tahoe pick-up truck for their school and an expense-paid trip to the final competition in New York City.

Jaspal Dhillon and Ivan Reyes competed against teams from 23 other Southern California high schools and earned near-perfect scores in both written and hands-on categories. The contest tests their skills, measures their knowledge, and challenge their ability to diagnose and repair vehicles. During the national finals, the students will compete for $40,000 in scholarships, $25,000 in prizes, and a new car.

The students are standouts in Van Nuys High School’s automotive program, which under the leadership of instructor Joseph Agruso, is sending a team to the national finals for the fourth consecutive year.

“This is something that you can’t find at every school –this is unique,” said Principal Yolanda Gardea. “It’s just a lot of different entities working together to help our students be as successful as they possibly can.”

The  Chevrolet Tahoe, donated by the Greater Los Angeles New Car Dealers, will be used as a training vehicle for the school’s Advanced Electrical and Electronics class, where students will learn to troubleshoot  real-world issues.

More than 200 student are enrolled in Van Nuys High’s career-technical program, which is one of L.A. Unified’s successful Linked Learning pathways.

“Students can learn a skill that will let them pay their bills,” Agruso said. “Hard work does pay off.”