ARMO Select Committee members Joanna Agosta Shere and Keith Roberts recap their experience volunteering at the NHRA YES Program.
By: Joanna Agosta Shere
Last month, I received an email from Nathan Ridnour that SEMA was a sponsor for a youth event in my local area and would I like to volunteer to help. I have a passion for getting the youth interested in our industry so I said YES! I brought along a colleague and joined the SEMA crew at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. I learned a little more about the NHRA Y.E.S. Program once I arrived. SEMA, along with Ford and the Universal Technical Institute helped sponsor this NHRA event to educate youth in the career opportunities in the motorsport and automotive aftermarket industries. There are 15 events throughout the country. Not only are students provided more information about our industry, but many experienced the sounds, smells, and vibrating feelings of being near dragsters for the first time.
Each sponsor had a booth to engage the students and accompanying teachers. SEMA had a tent that the kids could spin a wheel for prizes. Also, SEMA was promoting the Motorin’ app by having students download the app in order to compete in further games. I worked the educator booth, offering free coffee and doughnuts (who could say no to that?!) and informing the teachers about all the great youth programs that SEMA has including the SEMA Scholarship and field trips to the SEMA Show and PRI. Teachers were thrilled to learn about the opportunities that SEMA offered to their students and the students learned about the breadth of career paths the aftermarket offered. Since I was from a local business, I offered several instructors the opportunity to bring their kids in for a tour of our plant, one of which we already have scheduled for this fall.
After a successful Charlotte event, I was offered the opportunity to visit the Richmond NHRA Y.E.S. event. It was a similar set up but I had the opportunity to address the students and represent the aftermarket for SEMA. Every roaring dragster that went by, I’d remind the group that it represented jobs in the aftermarket. Whether it was driver, manufacturer, pit crew, research, marketing – there were many roles represented by that vehicle. When asked, a good portion of the students were working on their own vehicles by restoring, restyling, or changing performance to their ride. I reminded them that if they enjoyed this work on their cars, think of how it could relate to a career, which was followed by enthusiastic cheers.
The NHRA Y.E.S. program really gives kids some firsthand experiences that are hopefully memorable. Even if the majority of the students don’t pursue a career in the aftermarket, the event did expose them to our passion for what we do in the industry and how fun our hobby is to be a part of.
By: Keith Roberts
The NHRA YES Event at the Southern Nationals was an amazing experience. I was not sure what to expect when asked to volunteer at the SEMA tent but the Youth Initiative Programs for our industry are arguably the most important programs we get involved in at SEMA. It was a great time, and really cool to talk to teenagers that range from being gear heads in a shop class at their school to teenagers that have never been to a car show or drag race. Hopefully we turned a few into future hot rodders! I know there is a lot of concern about where the automotive industry is going and how the next generation will get involved, but I feel programs like this open the door to our industry and are invaluable!