Students in the Automotive Technology program at the AK Smith Career Center in Michigan City have a “new” vehicle to work on, thanks to a donation from Auto Park Ford La Porte.
The LaPorte County Career and Technical Education Program received the donation, a 2013 Ford Focus, through Ford’s Automotive Career Exploration (ACE) program, which provides repurchased vehicles to automotive education programs through dealer partnerships.
Auto Park Service Manager Joe Gannuscio and Ford Motor Company Field Service Engineer Chris Lowe stopped by the Career Center on Tuesday, April 13, to present the keys to A.K. Smith Automotive instructor Steve Barnes.
“We’ll end up taking this entire car apart and putting it back together,” said Barnes, noting that the dual-clutch transmission on the Focus will provide students with practical experience on a system unlike other vehicles currently in the school automotive lab. “This type of real-world experience is very valuable, and is also fun and engaging for our students.”
According to Lowe, Ford’s ACE program not only facilitates such donations, but also connects dealerships with career-tech automotive programs for student internships and provides the same web-based training for CTE students that is required of Ford technicians. This can lead to future job opportunities for students.
Gannuscio currently serves on the Advisory Board for the A. K. Smith Automotive program, and Barnes performed an externship at the Auto Park dealership in 2019, part of a requirement to renew his CTE teaching credential. The dealership also assisted with the recent re-accreditation of the A. K. Smith program.
“We greatly appreciate this donation and the ongoing partnership of Auto Park Ford,” said LaPorte County CTE Director Delincia Smith. “Relationships like this one demonstrate the power of career-tech education, through hands-on experiences, internships, and future opportunities for our students.”
Follow the A. K. Smith Career Center Automotive “Wolf Automotive” Program on Facebook @aksmithauto. For more information about the A. K. Smith Career Center, visit