POMONA – Spending a day at the races – and out of school – is an idea Sandy Franco could grow accustomed to. Franco, 15, a sophomore at Nogales High School, spent Friday along with 29 other students at Fairplex in Pomona watching drag racing. More importantly, she also received advice from professional racers about the importance of education, setting goals and making positive decisions. The National Hot Rod Association’s Youth & Education Service program attracted 5,400 students from 90 schools in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties. The YES program was created in 1989 as a vehicle to connect students with careers in auto racing. For the last seven years, the U.S. Army has partnered with the NHRA in presenting this educational program that 50,000 students from across the country participate annually. Gonzalez, a senior, has come to the YES event for four years and is still thrilled by the prospect of meeting drivers and seeing race cars. Teachers also see the event as an educational experience for students. “I’ve been teaching auto shop for 18 years and I’ve been bringing kids here for 17,” said Tom Blair, an automotive technology instructor at Pioneer High School in Whittier. “I bring them to get them excited about automotives and auto shop – and it’s the one place they’ll come and they won’t forget what they see and hear,” he said. “These are the big boys who come racing here.” Phillip Jelinek has been taking auto-shop students at Monrovia High School to the event since 1989. He said one of the most thrilling aspects for students is always getting to interact face-to-face with the drivers and crews. “It’s the only motor sports venue that allows you to walk right up there in the pits and get within five to 10 feet of them.” Jelinek said the event also opens the students up to the many job opportunities available in racing – from marketing and graphics to cooking and sales. “Most of the kids don’t know what they want to do. This is just planting seeds, giving them ideas of what they can do,” he said. “There is just a myriad of careers associated with drag racing besides just working on cars.” Staff writers Cortney Fielding and Tracy Garcia contributed to this story. email@example.com (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2108160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre Friday’s agenda included remarks from racing pros Tony Schumacher and Angelle Sampey about setting goals. Then the students watched the qualifying runs of drivers for the NHRA’s Auto Club Finals. Additionally, students looking for a bit of physical activity stopped by the U.S. Army tent to compete in a push-up and football throwing contest. The diminutive Franco is a life-long racing fan who wants to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. She knows the value of a good education, Franco said, and having the opportunity to experience a competitive race in person was a treat. “I get to be out of school and see drag racing!” she said excitedly. David Muro and Jasmin Gonzalez, students at California High School in Whittier, were also excited to spend the day out of class and around cars.
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