Harlem transportation teacher Nick Hayes had a problem. Students in his automotive class were interested in the paint and body aspect of the trade, but limited resources held them back.
"We don't have a paint and body shop here at the school, and we really don't have the funding to put one in," Hayes said. "But an interesting proposal was made from Auto Color of Augusta. They offered to let us bring some students down and use their paint booth and their actual paint and body guy to teach these students how to do it."
That was the beginning of a partnership that produced a championship.
"I was a little apprehensive at first, but the students were willing to work and I knew I had three students I could trust to get the program started off right," Hayes said. "They took to each piece like it was their own."
Those three Harlem students, Rodney Scruggs, Jonathan Combs and Stephen Jankus, graduated in May. Three months earlier ,they spent a full day at Auto Color of Augusta learning how to prep and paint a Triumph Daytona 675 motorcycle.
They also created a slide presentation to show other Harlem automotive students.
"I really enjoyed doing it," Scruggs said. "It's not hard, but it's almost a talent you have to have if you want it to look really good."
Harlem's technology department chipped in by designing and cutting regulation competition numbers for the bike. The finished product was completed that spring and turned over to rider Jimmy Brown.
"It looked really good. There were a couple of little flaws, but you'd have to be looking for them. Overall, they did an excellent job," Brown said. "I wasn't too concerned with how good or bad it was, but you want to make sure it looks good especially for the sponsors. You can look at it now, and it looks as good as it did in March. I was quite impressed for high school kids."
With the Harlem students' task complete, they watched as Brown, an Evans High School graduate, cruised through the 2007 season with huge success. Brown and his freshly painted bike took third place in the first race of the season March 24. The rider went on to earn two first-place finishes in WERA Sportsman races in July.
By the end of the summer, Brown and his bike had claimed the 2007 Western Eastern Roadracing Association North Florida Region C Superbike Novice Championship and the C Superstock Novice Championship.
"We all felt pretty good about it because we knew we actually got to help them out with it, and we got to learn about all this," Scruggs said.
The winning effort on both sides of the partnership prompted the Augusta Triumph/Ducati Racing Team to take another lap with the Harlem automotive class. Brown said the plan is for Harlem students to prep and paint as many as three bikes for the upcoming season.
Hayes said finding interested Harlem students won't be a problem: "I've already had students walk up to me and ask how they can get involved. They're even asking if they can make it their senior project."
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