YHS automotive program receives first-ever vehicle donation from Ford

Students will work on a 2023 Lincoln Aviator


Dawn Kraves’ goal after being hired at Yelm High School as an automotive instructor was to provide every student with as many opportunities as possible.

With a nationwide shortage of automotive technicians and the rising costs of facilities, equipment, tools and curriculum, automotive instructors must often scramble for resources. Kraves and YHS partnered with Ford Motor Company to bring the Ford Automotive Career Exploration (ACE) program, a training program that allows students to earn Ford certifications while still in high school, into the curriculum. Through this program, Ford donated a 2023 Lincoln Aviator to the school on Thursday, April 11.

Ford was represented by members of Mullinax Ford in Olympia and Ford Corporate, while Kraves, YHS Principal Curtis Cleveringa, Yelm Community Schools Superintendent Chris Woods, and YCS CTE Director Teri Melone were on hand to receive the donation, which was worth approximately $100,000. Ford donated the vehicle to recognize YHS for having the highest number of Ford ACE participants in the area, Kraves said.

“The newest car that we had is from 2015, and electronics have changed so much since that vehicle came out. Being able to expose the students to the new electronics that are in these newer models is a really big deal,” said Kraves, who teaches five classes in auto basics and auto service. “When I came here we didn’t have any cars. Zero. So we bought four, but 2015 was the latest one. This is a really good opportunity for the kids.”

Once the car was delivered, the automotive students arrived shortly after to inspect their new training vehicle, a three-row SUV that fits seven people. Some students sat in the front seat to ignite the engine, while others took a seat in the spacious back rows and in the trunk.

“It’s really comfortable. It’s got all kinds of fancy buttons in the front,” said junior Tyler Greer, who is a first-year ACE program student. “I think it will improve our knowledge on electronics for the newer vehicles. None of the other cars in here have these fancy electronics. I’m stoked.”

Mullinax Ford Service Manager Josue Martinez said the dealership has hired a number of YHS graduates and former Kraves’ students through the program.

“We love the automotive program here. We want to make these types of investments and donations so that we can show the schools and communities that Mullinax Ford is very much invested in the future of technicians and people that want to work in the automotive industry as a career,” Martinez said.

Joseph Bahna Jr., Ford’s market area coordinator for all five regions in the Western United States, added that it’s more important than ever to have schools involved in preparing students for the industry due to a significant shortage of workers.

“We appreciate the passion that YHS has. With this program, students can walk right into the dealership and start there quickly and work their way all the way up in five years to a master technician and become the next mentor and then maybe in 20 years become the next teacher,” Bahna said. “It all comes full circle.”

Kraves is excited to have the opportunity to directly send students into the automotive industry with hands-on experience and a wealth of knowledge. She hopes that the donation from Ford and the education students receive from the donation will further fill in the gaps in automotive labor.

“This is just incredible that we’re able to do this. It’s so many more opportunities for these guys. Before, they were coming in and they had these older cars to work on, but they had no chance to work on newer electronics,” Kraves said. “With the direction we’re going, we’re going to electric cars. It’s going to happen. If these guys are gonna go in this direction, they need to know how to diagnose these types of things.”