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La Liga de Las Americas

Toledo Schools visit GM Heritage Center

Second of a two-part series


On April 27, 2007, 27 Latino students from Leverette, Newbury, East Broadway, and Jones Junior High schools visited the General Motors Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Michigan, as part of the GM - Toledo Public School’s (TPS) Hispanic Outreach Program.


This was the 10th anniversary of the collaboration between GM and Toledo Public Schools. The host for the event was Toledo-area native, José Limon, Jr.


The program is geared towards providing TPS Latino students the opportunity to see the inner workings of GM’s engineering, design, and development at the GM Technical Center in Warren, MI. This year, the students were invited to GM’s private museum, which is only open for GM meetings and employees on a limited basis.


The facility, opened in June of 2004, has a museum setting, which displays part of the collection of all GM products produced over the past 80 years, including the first Cadillac cars ever built. Students were able to see historical vehicles including the industry first ever concept car, the Buick Y, which has an appraised value of 15 million dollars.


The TPS coordinator is José Luna, TPS director of Bi-Lingual Education and Special Needs. The schools were selected based on Latino population of students. The students were chosen based on grades, behavior, and interest in math, science, and art careers. The event focus, which has been constant, is the encouragement of finishing high school and the value of education.


The slogan is: Education, the Key to Success!


TPS is the only school district to be offered this rare opportunity to visit the highly secured area of GM Vehicle Design, Engineering and Development, normally closed to media, the general public and even to GM employees not engaged in the area of Advanced Vehicle Development and Design.


José Limón, Jr. is an Engineering Specialist for the Global Advanced Vehicle Development Center, located next to the GM Design Center on the sprawling campus of the GM Tech Center. Limón and Luna conceived of these field trips in 1995, as a way to expose Latino students to the many careers available in the auto-industry and to encourage students to see the value only an education can provide.


During a visit to Detroit, Limón and Luna discussed the troubling statistics regarding the above average dropout rate of Latinos nationwide, at 48% according to a PEW/Rand research project sponsored by the federal government, in 1995. Unfortunately, according to Luna, the rate for Latinos in TPS is at 58%.


Tour of the museum
The students were able to tour the facility with GM Designers and Engineers from the Design Center and Global Advanced Vehicle Development Center, to see the numerous concept cars, race cars from both NASCAR & NHRA, as well as production cars from every decade up to current vehicles such as the Cadillac Sports Coupe, the $100K, XLR.


GM brands include: Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac, Hummer, Saab, Saturn, GMC Truck, and Cadillac in North America, along with brands globally such as Holden and Opel in Australia and Europe respectively.


One of the guest speakers was Tom Peters, Director of Advanced Design, who led the design on several futuristic GM products. The stunning and highly anticipated Chevy Camaro, which goes into production in 2008 and the present Chevy Corvette. Peters presented the entire design and development process for the Camaro, which was awarded the Best in Show at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit this past January.


Peters spoke of his determination to attend the highly regarded Art Center of Design in Pasadena, California, and his persistence in achieving his childhood dream of designing cars. He encouraged the students to be passionate about the value of education and to not fall victim to obstacles.


He told the story of how on his initial trip to California he was halted when his car caught fire and was destroyed—yet he did not turn back and he was able to make it to school in time to begin his education. He also talked about the death of his father and how he had to delay entering school one year in order to work to support his family in Baton Rouge, LA.


Peters presented a series of the sketches he started on the Camaro Project and the first models made from clay and how the decisions were made to come up with the design cues, returning the styling of the 1969 Camaro. He highlighted the need to have contemporary looks, to distinguish the vehicle from its main competitor, the Ford Mustang. He surprised the students with a gift of a limited edition calendar.


Limón addressed the students and stressed the reason for the outreach event—to stay focused on schoolwork, and the need to understand that education is the key ingredient for success in any career path. He emphasized that while Latinos were the largest minority in the United States, they were also the most underrepresented in the areas of government, education, and business.


For example, although GM employs approximately 39,000 salaried employees in North America, only 3,000 are Latinos. He spoke about the need to focus on being good students (and not falling into the obstacles such as not doing homework) and being disciplined about the pursuit of any goal, without making bad choices.


“We can do all we can to encourage you by doing these events, but it can only be successful if you make the right choices, which are up to you to make regarding your attitude about school work and your future.”


Limón reminded the students about the need to be selfless about success: “True success is when one day you can do as I do, by going back to your community and sharing your experience to help others become successful in understanding that with an education, you will have the key to do for a living what you’re passionate about, like me, I always wanted to design cars, and today I’m living out my dream!”


Limón, a 1977 graduate of Rossford High School, was also a presenter at this year’s Latino Youth Summit at the University of Toledo. See related story on page 8 of La Prensa.


After the tour, Raj Mehta, Manager for Vehicle Architecture, Advanced Vehicle Development—Limón’s supervisor—treated the students to a Mexican buffet at El Sombrero’s Restaurant in Warren. GM was the sole sponsor of the event.


TPS estudiantes sojourn to GM’s Heritage Museum






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