BRATTLEBORO -- Two students from the Automotive Technology program at the Windham Regional Career Center competed recently in the Ford/AAA Auto Skills state finals at the New England Dragway in Epping, N.H. To qualify for competition, automotive students from the 17 career centers in Vermont first took an online written exam. The schools with the top 10 total scores then became eligible for the competition, sending their top two scoring students to the event.

Aaron Graham of Hinsdale, N.H., and Ryan Duford of Vernon, both seniors, were the highest scoring students at the Career Center, whose overall score qualified them for the competition.

The event is co-sponsored by Ford and AAA with the intent of encouraging talented young people to pursue careers as automotive service technicians. Students participate in a hands-on competition, diagnosing and fixing uniformly "bugged" new Ford vehicles as quickly as possible while ensuring quality workmanship. To help Aaron and Ryan prepare for the event, Ford of Brattleboro loaned the Career Center a car similar to one they’d be facing in the competition.

The two students from each of the competing schools worked together as a team. Each team was given a work order on a car that would not start and that had a number of issues that needed their attention.

Jim Valliere, automotive instructor at the Career Center, accompanied his students to the competition. He shared that "Ryan and Aaron were definitely a little nervous and awe struck with the caliber of the competition, but when the event started, it was all business for them.


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I am very proud to say they represented our career center with complete professionalism, completing the competition with a fourth place finish."

Ryan said that he "has a passion for fixing cars" and that, by his nature, he’s a very competitive person, so the event was an appropriate challenge for him. He is currently employed part time by Ford of Brattleboro and will continue working for them after graduation.

Aaron said that "it was definitely a great learning experience, especially not knowing at all what problems we’d have to deal with." Aaron enjoys working on cars, but will likely pursue a career as a crane operator.

Aaron and Ryan each received tools, a T-shirt, a jacket, a backpack, a coffee mug, a 4th place certificate, and the option for a $1,000 scholarship to Universal Technical Institute, a $1,000 scholarship to Ohio Technical College or a $5,000 scholarship to the University of Northwestern Ohio.