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CRENSHAW : Auto Center Presents Its First Graduates

August 01, 1993|ERIN J. AUBRY

Under a towering ceiling crisscrossed with gray beams that still sparkled with newness, the Los Angeles Urban League Automotive Training Center conducted its first graduation.

The center's first 10 graduates, outfitted in blue mechanic's coveralls, trooped across a stage to receive certificates of completion in air-conditioning service and praise from Urban League representatives and politicians.

"It was a really good program," said Vincent Morris, a 23-year-old Gardena resident who worked for a catering service before enrolling at the center. "(Air-conditioning repair) seemed simple once I got the basics down. I'm glad to have the skills now that a lot of people don't have. "

The center opened its doors at 3833 Crenshaw Blvd. in April after Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. and the Urban League formed a partnership late last year to develop a job-training project in a riot-affected community. The result was a $3-million, 17,000-square-foot automotive training center funded by Toyota that offers eligible applicants training for entry-level jobs, including accessory installation, air conditioning, brakes and exhaust, emissions, detailing and suspensions.

All of last week's graduates have been placed in positions at one of center's employment partners, which include Bridgestone/Firestone, Jiffy Lube, Midas Muffler, Montgomery Ward, Pep Boys, Sears and Tune-Up Masters.

Graduate Maribel Gonzales, 23, said her biggest hurdle was being one of only two women in the program.

"I wanted to take this up when I was younger, but I never had the opportunity," said Gonzales, who was placed at a Pep Boys in Inglewood.

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