By Kathleen Folkerth
GREATER AKRON — Local car dealers have partnered with a drivers’ training facility to award area teens the chance to improve their skills behind the wheel.
Scholarships good toward a two-day driving skills class from DriveTeam in Cuyahoga Falls will be awarded to students from 10 local high schools through the efforts of the Akron Area Auto Dealers Association (AAADA).
Pat Primm, immediate past president of the AAADA, said the organization is comprised of 45 auto dealers in the Akron-Canton area. Every year, the members look at spending the group’s remaining funds on a project to help the community.
When members heard a presentation on teen driving from Ken Stout, president and owner of DriveTeam, that gave Primm an idea.
“A little light went on in my head and I said, this is what we’re looking for,” he said. “This is a way to make all the streets in the area safer.”
The dealers were able to commit to offering scholarships for DriveTeam’s two-day driving skills clinic for teens, a $395 value.
Students from 10 schools will have the chance to earn a scholarship. In the West Side Leader’s coverage area, Firestone, Norton, Woodridge and St. Vincent-St. Mary high schools are participating.
Primm said students applying for the scholarship must be at least 15-1/2 years old with a valid learner’s permit or driver’s license and have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Each student must write a 500-word essay on the topic “What safety means to teen driving.”
Each school will select its top five essays and forward them to the AAADA, whose members will then select one winner per school.
Stout, a Bath resident who has owned and operated DriveTeam since 1990, said he is excited about what the scholarship program can do.
“From our point of view, it does all kinds of wonderful things,” Stout said. “It creates peer awareness. If we have young men and women writing essays and talking to friends, and if we can get teens talking to teens, that’s much better than adults talking to teens. We thought the whole awareness thing was great.”
The scholarship was announced at an event at DriveTeam’s 15-acre course April 28. Administrators from the participating high schools were invited to drive the course and try out the DriveTeam SkidCar.
Stout said the two-day class, which the scholarship winners will schedule upon winning, takes place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a Saturday and Sunday.
“What we’re doing is teaching them through a series of driving exercises all the basic in-car skills, like how to make it go, stop, back up and turn smoothly,” Stout said.
On the second day, parents are required to come for a one-hour session with Stout at 2 p.m. For the final hour, at 3 p.m., the students and parents ride together in their car, with the student showing the parent what they have learned in the course.
Primm said the auto dealers ultimately want the program to help improve safety on the road for everyone.
“We get that false sense of security with all the technology we have on cars,” Primm said. “The biggest safety feature in a car is the driver.”
Students interested in applying for the scholarship are advised to ask about it at their school, Primm said. Schools will set their own deadlines, and the AAADA plans to select its winners in June.