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Posted 05.18.2017

Funding Supports Automotive Restoration Education GilmoreFred Colgren from the Gilmore Car Museum's Garage Works program, stands with an engine from 1908. Breaking down and reconstructing the engine is one of many automotive restoration projects students tackle at Garage Works.HICKORY CORNERS – With more than 100 students and dozens of hands-on automotive restoration projects, the Gilmore Car Museum’s Garage Works program has certainly been a grassroots success for one of the state’s premier automotive heritage attractions.

Garage Works is an after-school enrichment program that reaches at-risk youths around the rustic Barry County, Michigan. Gilmore education staff founded Garage Works in the fall of 2009 backed by donors and a passionate team of mentors.

In 2010, MotorCities National Heritage Area awarded Gilmore nearly $25,000 in grant funding to support and enhance the instructional program. Mentors provide insight-filled instruction in automotive technology by working on early 20th century cars, giving students skills in welding, painting and fabrication. The goal of the program is to guide students down career paths in automotive while developing an appreciation for the history of the automobile.

“Lot of times, the kids are students who do really well working with their hands. They’d rather be out there using their hands and not sitting in the classroom,” says Fred Colgren, education director for the Gilmore Car Museum.

Colgren says they are able to fill a void in the region since some school districts have dropped automotive technology from their curriculum.

“Some of the kids are ‘at risk,’ in the sense, they are interested in automotive but the school doesn’t provide that education anymore,” says Colgren.

The benefit of Garage Works goes beyond learning how to restore antique cars – students also learn life skills and form friendships with the instructional staff, according to Colgren.

“We have some pretty strong bonds with these kids,” he says.

To prove their mettle in the ultimate hands-on experience, Garage Works will send their own team to participate in The Great Race, a 2,400-mile endurance rally from Jacksonville, Fla. to Traverse City, Mich. The competition begins June 24.

“The team that’s going to The Great Race, most of those kids are college bound. That’s pretty neat to see,” says Colgren. “They’re really, really great kids. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them and for us.”

To learn more about the Gilmore Car Museum’s Garage Works program, click here.