Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
An old Regional Technical Center for Trades The student is giving back to the Ypsilanti-based professional program which he says has made it successful at a time when budget cuts have drastically reduced the programs offered.
Dusty Whitney, owner of three Ann Arbor auto repair shops that bear his name, has pledged to give the center’s auto center $25,000 a year for three years to help keep it operational for prospective students. Whitney presented her first check to the program last summer for the 2012-2013 school year.
“Over the years I’ve kept a pretty big business, so I wanted to give back to something that kind of got me started,” he said. “I think it’s a very important thing. There are kids who are just practical and have certain skills, book work is not for everyone.
Whitney attended RCTC in the early 1990s and opened Dusty’s Collision at 2418 S. Industrial Hwy in Ann Arbor in 1995.
When he was a student, Whitney said, students were allowed to bring their own cars to work. Whitney started by fixing the cars of his parents’ friends, then started knocking on the doors of houses where he saw wrecked cars in front. He eventually gained a large enough clientele to rent his own small shop to meet the demand.
Whitney now has six auto collision repair shops across the state, including locations in Flat Rock, Temperance and Grand Blanc. It employs 70 full-time workers, some of whom are RCTC graduates.
“When I was in school I was not a very good student and I got involved in the RCTC and body shop program and it got me out of trouble and got me motivated and interested in fixing things. cars,” he said. “So I was able to start a business right out of high school.”
Faced with a budget deficit, Ypsilanti Public Schools cut five of RCTC’s eight programs in 2012 – construction technology, child care, health professions, computer systems technology and graphic arts – saving the district about $500,000, said Sharon Irvindistrict executive director of human resources.
Collision repair, automotive technology and culinary arts and hospitality management survived the cuts, but the director of the RCTC Bill Burnet said they are still under threat of being replaced by courses at Washtenaw Community College.
Whitney’s support represents nearly 25% of the automotive center’s operating costs and has significantly strengthened the program for the next three years, Burnette said. Whitney, who also sits on the program’s advisory board, has known Burnette since he had him as a teacher during his time at RCTC.
When he heard about the cuts the district was making to the RCTC in January 2012, Burnette said he called Whitney for a corporate sponsorship, and Whitney immediately pledged $75,000 over a three-year term with possibility. extension.
“His donation helped provide support to para-educators for the program as well as the cost of program administration/oversight,” Irvine said in an email. “He also provided an educational complement to the program.”
Whitney thanks Burnette and the RCTC for her training, but Burnette said Whitney was an amazing student.
“He’s an incredible young man and his success speaks for itself,” he said. “He succeeded and he worked hard for it.”
Whitney said he is currently expanding his first store, Dusty’s Collision, from 15,000 square feet to 25,000 and plans to turn the larger space into a corporate headquarters and training center for employees. He hopes to work with the RCTC to create a training program where motor vehicle collision students can spend time at his facility to get hands-on training in a real shop, at no cost to the center.
In addition to real-world experience, Whitney said the training could also lead to full-time employment at one of Whitney’s stores.
“Most of my employees are aging now, and I need people to replace those employees,” he said. “It would be nice to give others the same kind of opportunity that I had.”
Erica Hobbs is a freelance journalist.