The program is a partnership between the Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) school bus maintenance team and Mid Florida Tech, a vocational school that is part of OCPS' career and technical education department.
Students who are interested in the program fill out an OCPS online application. Representatives from the school bus garage review the applications and arrange for interviews with selected students.
The students who are chosen for the mentorship program work as part-time OCPS employees. They work after school four days a week, from 3:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., in the various bus maintenance facilities throughout the district.
Students get the opportunity to learn from experts and gain valuable experience by working with professional OCPS diesel technicians.
“This has been a valuable learning experience which will definitely help me to get a job in the industry," said Alex Koontz, a post-secondary student enrolled in Mid Florida Tech’s Diesel Technology Program. "It’s the actual hands-on experience which will give me the edge over other people who are applying for the same job.”
Koontz added that he is also convinced that his education and work experience at the OCPS garage gave him the edge in winning first place in the SkillsUSA Diesel Equipment Technology state competition held in Pensacola in late April.
Ahmed Alli, a high school senior who is also enrolled in the program, took first in the high school Diesel Equipment Technology competition at SkillsUSA.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to work at the school bus garage and get the experience and hands-on training I need to be successful in the diesel technology field,” Alli said.
Both Koontz and Alli are raising money to compete in the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Competition, which will be held in Kansas City, Mo., in June.