Layla: Oil Changes to Entrepreneur
Layla Strong knows her way around an automobile from balancing tires to doing an all-point maintenance check to making sure the exterior is show-room ready. And her dream is to do even more.
Layla Strong, Automotive Student at Kent Transition Center, feels right at home under the hood of a car, but her ambitions don’t stop at being able to get your ride back on the road. She plans to own her own auto mechanic shop one day, building on the hands-on learning she’s getting now at Kent Transition Center.
Layla joins host Nate Gimby for this episode of Your Dream is Our Dream along with her automotive instructor Clayton Powell.
Nate Gimby: Welcome to the Your Dream is Our Dream podcast where we celebrate student success, one dream at a time. This program is made possible by Kent ISD in partnership with WGVU. I’m Nate Gimby and I have with me today Layla Strong, a junior at East Kentwood High, who is also in the Automotive program at Kent Transition Center, along with her instructor there, Clayton Powell. Thanks so much for joining me in studio today.
Clayton Powell: Thanks for having us.
NG: Well, we want to hear about Layla’s big dream. But first Clayton, will you share a little bit about Kent Transition Center and how you and your team there help students achieve their dreams.
CP: Definitely. So at Kent Transition Center we give the students an opportunity to learn a technical skill in their junior year. After their junior year they head out to a work site their senior year and get to basically use the skills that they've been learning throughout the year in partnership with technicians in the field or somebody that's in the industry.
NG: And Clayton, I understand that KTC offers some other career pathway options for students. Could you tell us a little bit more about those?
CP: Absolutely. So KTC actually offer a multitude of different classes. We have a hospitality class, a child and family careers class, retail marketing, and then we also offer CORE and a manufacturing program. So each of our programs are designed around the philosophy of the student comes to us their junior year, they learn the job-related skills, soft skills and the technical skills. And then their senior year they go to the job site. So every program is structured. Very similar to the design. But just different curriculum is taught.
NG: Layla, last time we met, you were about to get to work in KTC’s auto lab. And you looked right at home there. What brought you to this automotive program?
Layla Strong: I grew up with a father who grew up around cars. And so growing up, I also grew up around cars so when we were on the road. I always asked questions about cars, like what’s wrong with them or something, what’s wrong with the car in front of us. So growing up I wanted to know not just what was wrong with them. But what instead looking at them and trying to figure out, you know, what's going on on the inside as well.
NG: Okay. So a family connection. Tell us about what you're learning at KTC’s auto program. What kind of things you do in this lab that seems to be set up like a real auto shop?
LS: Well, we get to learn like skills, like hands-on skills when normally in class you're sitting and hearing and learning about things. But in the auto class, you're able to, you know, go in and fix oil changes, you get to do inspections, you get to learn about detailing, you know, you get to touch tools normally that you wouldn’t let kids touch such as being able to play with tools that have fire, tools that cost thousands of dollars So it's kind of fun to have your own experience there.
NG: Well, it sounds like a lot of responsibility. How does what you do in class prepare you for what you want to do in the future.
LS: It's only getting up my skills, because when I walked in, I didn't know what I was doing or how I was going to get there. But with this program I’ve Slowly been able to push through that. And slowly learn how to gain those skills and what I need to do to get ready to go. And realizing I have no idea what I’m doing here and I need to get better at that. So with those things, I'm able to push that my future.
NG: And how are your teachers helping you reach that dream that you describe?
LS: They're definitely push him out of my comfort zone and something I can’t do by myself. Like I would rather, you know, do something by myself that I'm good at. But with teachers at KTC they say you're going to do this, you're going to learn it and you're going to be good at it. They put the faith in you that you don’t have in yourself. So it kind of just gives you that courage. To say, like, that I can do it.
NG: Clayton, this particular program is just one of many that students can choose from that help them connect to careers college and life after high school. How do you connect what you're teaching with the aspirations of Layla and her classmates?
CP: So we're kind of lucky because most of the students that join our class know kind of what they want to do for the future and have kind of an idea what they're looking at doing. We just try to base our curriculum base our material on. What's going to help them succeed the most in the future. I always use what opportunity quite a bit in class and what opportunity can I give you got to learn on this vehicle, what opportunity can I give you to you can learn on these tools to figure out what we can do to make it successful. Then neat opportunity like I was saying earlier about is they get to practice in class and then they get to go out to a job site afterwards. So just making that connection between the two.
NG: And why is it important to ask students what their aspirations are and what can educators learn when they talk to students about their dreams?
CP: Everybody's dream is different. Everyone has different ideas of what they want to do when they grow up. And for me personally, I like to figure out what that student wants to do, what once again we can do to make them successful just to help them in the future. We can figure out what drives him, what motivates them that goes a long ways for tomorrow and the next day.
NG: Do you have examples of some graduates of your program. What do they typically go on to do what kind of work?
CP: So we've had quite a few students. They got hired from their job sites. So we have some students that are working at Great Lakes chemical on the detailing line there. We have some students that are running their own oil change centers on the community. There's lots of different jobs in the automotive industry that students can get into. Just kind of got to work your way up the ladder and progress through the system.
NG: It sounds like those connections to students next steps are so important. And speaking of which, Layla, I understand that you already have your next step lined up. Could you tell us a little bit about what you'll be doing?
LS: So my next step is a starting at Infinity dealership. I'm hoping to start with interior detailing and exterior detailing.
NG: Clayton, could you tell us a little bit more about some of these other work-based opportunities and how you partner with Infinity?
CP: Yes. So Infinity is one of our work sites that we used to work-based learning. Just like other programs have different sites throughout the community. In Layla's case, she should be starting in the detail in department where she'll be working on the interiors and exteriors the vehicles, getting ready for resale, cleaning them up from auctions or whatever it may be so just gives her a great opportunity. To take what she's learned in class and then use that in a real life setting as she learns more and more about the automotive field.
NG: Layla. I understand you have some big dreams of your own. Could you tell us about what your dreams and aspirations are and how will you know when you've made your dream come true?
LS: My dream is to open my own auto shop because I've always felt that, you know, someone needs to step up, especially since auto is like a male dominated field. It's like having someone, a woman, who owns her auto own shop. It's like, you know, like girls can do it, too. women can do it too. I feel like I’ll know what I'm there once I've accomplished that because right now I right in the middle of like I can't do this. It’s hard because there's guys saying, “Why ae you doing this when you’re a female and you should be doing nails or hair” So I think I know what I'm there when I put faith in myself and I’m taking larger steps to do that.
NG: That's really cool to hear. So last question, what would you say your dream car is if you had to choose?
LS: My dream car is the McLaren 6.20.
NG: What about the McLaren 6.20 makes your dream car?
LS: Well, it’s like one of the newest sports cars. It came out in 2020, 2021 because it has all the safety features like a racing harness and a rolling cage where it stops you if the car flips over.What I like is it’s not as pricey as most of them, which is surprising for it being the newest one. I just like it's the body. I like the shape of it.
NG: Really cool. Well, a sports car with putting safety first. We love to hear about it. Excellent. Being not a car person. I don't know too much about cars But just from our conversation, I think I’d feel very confident with taking mine into your future auto shop. So thank you both Clayton and Layla so much for talking with us today and for dreaming big.
CP: Thank you.
LS: Thank you.
NG: And thank you to everybody listening to another story of student success. The Your Dream is Our Dream podcast is presented by Kent ISD in partnership with WGVU. I’m Nate Gimby.