The Monticello Occupational Education Center and Horace Mann Companies have joined forces to improve the quality of education and training for students in the Monticello and Drew Central school districts. The partnership includes a donated 2012 Chevrolet Equinox to the Monticello OEC from Horace Mann’s salvage pool for use in education for the auto service shop and for use in training for competition.

The Monticello/Drew Central Hot Rodders of Tomorrow team placed 12th in the nation at the 2018 national championships held in Las Vegas. The team has already qualified for nationals this year. The 2018 finish was the highest ever for any team from Arkansas. As a reward, each team member received a $5,000 scholarship to a technical school of their choice.

The Monticello/Drew Central team has proven itself as one of the top squads in the nation despite using a borrowed engine from another school district in the state. The vehicle donated by Horace Mann Companies will allow local students the opportunity to train year-round.

“The generous donation of a vehicle to our automotive service technology program will be a tremendous benefit to our students for years to come,” said OEC instructor Shawn Poindexter. “The students will build marketable skills using the donated vehicle and diagnostic equipment in the lab to learn diagnostic strategies and repair procedures that will prepare them for today’s workforce.”

Poindexter also pointed out that the donated vehicle will allow the students to learn and troubleshoot the newest technology like Gasoline Direct Injection and integrated systems like bluetooth and drive-by-wire.

Horace Mann representative and Monticellonian Jimmie Hilburn said he learned of the OEC’s need of an engine through his wife Cindy, who is the principal at the Monticello Elementary School.

“I am just very pleased to be in the right place at the right time with the opportunity to make this donation on behalf of Horace Mann,” said Hilburn. “The OEC is such a great asset to the schools, especially in today’s world. These students can learn trades that are in high demand that will hopefully set them up for success beyond high school and college.”