Posted on March 11, 2020
By Jacy Lewis, 191 News
ODESSA — Sewell Auto Tech officially opened its doors Thursday at 2425 East 8th St. Odessa College, the Sewell Family of Cos. and Odessa Development Corp. built a state-of-the-art campus that has been years in the making.
“Today, we celebrate the opening of the building, but for me what I’m really excited about is less about the building and more about the opportunities it is going to create for young people in our community,” said Collin Sewell president of Sewell Family of Cos. “I think there are tons of young men and women in our community who are trying to figure out what they want to do when they grow up.”
Sewell said he thinks young people sometimes have a hard time visualizing their dreams.
“The hope with this building and the hope with what Sewell Auto Tech can do is that it can take a dream and turn it into a vision, which allows them to make a new reality for themselves,” Sewell said.
Construction of the building was funded in part by a $6.2 million grant from the ODC, said Don Wood OC vice president of institutional effectiveness and vice president of instruction.
The building also features 25 images by OC photography professor Steve Goff, OC adjunct photography professor Beckwith Thompson and Kathleen Mahoney, a former student. Thompson said all the images were taken in the building.
The state-of-the-art building is 37,000 square feet and has seven classrooms, seven teaching bays, four diesel bays and engine and transmission labs, said Jennifer Myers, OC dean of business and industry. There is also a large area to the side of the building for truck-driver training.
“In the fall of 2019, we (OC) added the automotive and diesel technology programs as course pathways for the Odessa Career and Technical Early College High School students,” Myers said. “At the end of their senior year in high school, these early college high school students will graduate with their associate degree in diesel or automotive technology before they graduate with their high school diploma and will be ready to enter the workforce.”
Odessa High School and Permian High School students also will get the opportunity to earn dual credit in classes at Sewell Auto Tech beginning in the fall, Myers said.
The president of JSA Architects, Cruz Castillo, said the building design was meant to resemble a NASCAR car with the different patterns and colors present throughout the design. It is supposed to look like a racecar streaking past, he said.
“The partnership between Odessa College, my family and also the Odessa Development Corporation was really a three-way partnership to see what we could do to create opportunities for young people in our community,” Sewell said. “Odessa College and Sewell Ford, along with my parents and I, partnered to give them the land to build this facility. But really it was the Odessa Development Corporation in a three-way partnership to make this a reality.”
The Auto Tech campus is on the site of the original Sewell dealership building that was built in 1968 by Sewell’s father, Ron.
“In 2012, Greg Williams and I made an agreement that we wanted to turn this into an automotive technology campus,” he said. “Then, because of the economy and delays that happened, we weren’t able to turn the building over to them until 18 months ago. They went to work on making this a reality.”
Myers said students will be able to learn on all types of vehicles. Beginning this fall, OC will offer an associate in applied science in a Ford-specific training, known as the Ford Automotive Student Service Education Training or Ford ASSET, she said.
There are really two components to Sewell Auto Tech, Sewell said.
“One is a traditional mainstream auto tech program where a student can learn to become an automotive technician,” he said. “There is also a specialty partnership with Ford Motor Company that is a Ford ASSET Program, and Ford Motor Company became the fourth partner in this project to be able to create a specific certification for Ford-certified technicians throughout the region.”
He said the students in the Ford ASSET Program will be sponsored by Ford dealers throughout the state and will receive scholarships to attend school at Sewell Auto Tech.
“In many cases, education was the fork in the family tree that changed everything,” Sewell said.
“Our whole vision around Sewell Auto Tech was that the motto is ‘learn, earn and then return,’” he said.
Sewell said he would like to see program graduates return to Sewell Auto Tech to teach a new generation of students.
“My true favorite part of the building is that there is a photograph on the history wall of Oscar Jimenez, who was our longest-serving team member in our company for 45 years,” he said. “He just passed away last year. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see this building open.”
Sewell said he wishes Jimenez could have had the opportunity to come teach at Sewell Auto Tech because he was an artist in what he did and was also a mentor to young technicians.
OC president Greg Williams credits Sewell with being able to offer this program.
“Not only did he (Sewell) give his advice but he gave his help and support,” Williams said. “That’s why we are able to do what we are able to do.”
Williams said that this was an investment into the future.
“The investment is a belief in our future,” Williams said. “We believe that our future is bright, and we believe that there are better days ahead and the days now are good but there are better days ahead.”