I have a good family friend who is a high school automotive shop teacher at Nations Ford High School. He invited me to be a chaperone for his students last week, when they participated in the NHRA’s Youth & Education Services (YES) Program at the drag strip in Charlotte. I was pleased that I was able to join them for such a great opportunity! I’d never been to an NHRA event, so it was an exciting experience for me as well as for the students.

The Nations Ford High School students were joining hundreds of others from around the area, and the day started out with a presentation at the track. The YES Program is similar to the experiences I’ve had talking to high school students about STEM opportunities through motorsports. The YES Program provides quality programs and activities for schools at each race, and it focuses on the importance of goals, continuing education and exploring career opportunities. The YES Program has a strong skilled trade focus, like becoming a mechanic.

There were several speakers who discussed career opportunities within motorsports, and auto dealerships were there to meet with seniors who might be interested in enrolling in their technician programs, which would get them started on the path to being a master mechanic. Nowadays, those positions are very electronics-based, and they have great salaries. Another benefit of having those skillsets is that you can find a job just about anywhere.

After the presentation, it was time to check out the racing side of things! The students had a chance to meet with Funny Car champion Jack Beckman, who did a Q&A with the class. Jack found it interesting to have a sports car driver on hand, so he and I got to talk about the similarities and differences in our racing disciplines.

The kids had a terrific time learning about career opportunities in motorsports and the automotive field, meeting drivers, and watching the amazing Top Fuel dragsters in action. For me, the exhilaration of the ground shaking as the cars went down the track—not to mention it being a four-wide drag strip at Charlotte—just added to the excitement.

You can learn more about the NHRA’s YES Program here.