It’s common for students entering into an automotive technician course to have some background of working with cars, whether that’s in high school or with their family.
But not for Sophie Sapp. The 22-year-old spent her first three and a half years after she graduated high school going to the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).
“I jumped from like nursing to computer science and psychology for my last semester before I...I just kind of took a semester off because none of it was really what I wanted to do,” said Sapp.
She said at one point she was applying for any entry level job that involved hands-on work. It wasn’t until she started looking at a job at Firestone Tires that something just clicked for her.
“Obviously, it didn’t pan out, but it got me veered towards mechanic and auto technician kind of stuff because I realized that was really the only one out of all of them that I was applying to that I was really excited about the possibility of getting that job,” said Sapp.
So Sapp became part of the first wave of students to enter into Calhoun Community College’s new automotive technician program, which launched this week.
Instructor Lewis Nall said the program might be in its infancy, but there are big things coming in the near future.
"One of the great things about this program is it’s going to be one of the most cutting-edge programs in this area. We're going to have all of the snap-on C3 certifications, we’ve spent about a million and a half on just trainers on just trainers and equipment for these students,” said Nall.
Calhoun entered into a lease agreement with the Town of Priceville to lease a 22,000 square-foot former trucking building that sat dormant behind the library on South Bethel Road for about eight years.
Priceville Councilman Joe Lubisco said it was going to have a military application at one point, but that didn’t pan out.
“In 2017, I started looking for ways to find somebody that could rent this facility and we did find a group that was looking to rent it. They had a contract with the government to refurbish military equipment and that deal fell through,” said Lubisco.
By about August 2020, or at the latest, early 2021, the students in the auto tech class will relocate to a building that’s currently under construction at the Decatur campus. However, that doesn’t mean that Calhoun’s partnership with the site in Priceville is going to end anytime soon.
"We have workforce development that will be using part of this facility starting now and also, I hope to see this develop to where we have night classes here and some dual-enrollment classes here and in the Decatur campus,” said Nall.
As for Sapp, she said she’s both excited and scared to make the jump into this new career path.
“There were times yesterday and today where he would describe stuff that we’re going to be doing later in the program and I would be like, that sounds so cool...theoretically. But when I imagine myself doing that, it’s terrifying. But like a good kind of terrifying,” said Sapp.
It’s a new beginning for her, the school and the building.