Due to COVID-19, graduation has looked a little different for 2020 seniors. Serdarion Bell, a 2020 graduate of Maplewood High School in the Inglewood neighborhood of Nashville, is also a graduate of the school's Automotive Training Center. The two-year program, which offers students a hands-on replication of operations at a Firestone Complete Auto Care store, allows graduates to learn a skilled trade while still in high school, setting them up for a potential career path as a technician.
For Serdarion, the program came to her through the program instructor, and part-time Firestone store employee, Twjuana Williams, better known as Ms. TJ to her students.
"I had come to Maplewood after alternative school and Ms. TJ wanted me to join the class," Serdarion said. "I started enjoying it and learning about things I didn't know how to do. This program has been a great learning experience. I never imagined working with cars before, but now I can see myself and my future working with cars. I'm glad the program was in my life."
Since August 2019, Serdarion has worked as a part-time retail salesperson at the Firestone Complete Auto Care on Gallatin Road in Nashville, and she's excited to continue her journey with Bridgestone now that she's officially graduated high school.
"The program gave me a heads up for when I started my job at the Gallatin Road store," she said. "I learned everything at school, like working with the point of sale system, so I was a bump ahead. I've also learned how to do an oil change, and I'm learning about brakes now."
Maplewood held its graduation on Sunday, May 17 as a drive through ceremony due to COVID-19. Serdarion spent the day taking pictures with her family and celebrating her accomplishments. She's especially grateful to the program for helping her find a valued career path during this challenging time.
"It's tough for everyone graduating and going to work, so many jobs are being lost and it's hard for everyone," she said. "But being an essential employee has been a good thing, we're needed and we're able to stay open and help people."
Click here to learn more about the Maplewood High School Automotive Training Center.