An old ’93 Buick Regal may not be much to look at, but for Michael McAdams it will make a world of difference.
The car was donated by Barry Nelson, of Nelson Automotives, to the Great Expectations program at Patrick Henry Community College.
Great Expectations serves foster youth ages 17-24, assisting with goal setting, education and training, career assessment, life skills, preparation for employment, tutoring and mentoring, and job placement.
For many foster youth, like 18-year-old McAdams, the transition into higher education or a career once they reach adulthood can be made even more difficult by the lack of transportation.
"For many of our Great Expectations students, lack of transportation prohibits them from pursuing higher education, employment opportunities and access to community resources," explained Christy Yaple, the PHCC Director for Great Expectations.
Among the many barriers to success that foster youth face, lack of transportation ranks high – usually second to finding a place to live, Yaple said. The Skills to Wheels initiative was created as a part of Great Expectations to try to match students in need with the transportation they need.
Of his decision to donate a car, Nelson said that he "wanted to give these students an opportunity to succeed, an opportunity they probably wouldn’t have without a car. It’s like in baseball," he explained, "if you can’t get on the field, you won’t even have a chance to succeed in the game."
Nelson plans on donating two to three cars in the upcoming year.
McAdams, a first-year welding student, was very gracious to be given such an opportunity in life. "I’m very thankful," he said. "This will be so helpful."
His foster-care worker, Samantha Griffith of Martinsville Social Services, said "I wished more of my 18-year-old boys were as responsible as Michael is. I’m very proud of him and his progress. He deserves this."
Ultimately, this program will benefit more than just the car’s recipient. For Ed Anthony, Automotive Instructor at PHCC, the donated car has given his students hands-on experience working on a car. Students were able to work on some lighting problems, motor assembly and, a first for his students, replaced a window regulator. In the future, he said, he hopes the donated cars will give his students even more opportunities for this "key learning experience."
Christopher Parker, Executive Director of the Foundation, who helped facilitate this donation, has great hopes for the program. "If we can break down any barriers, like transportation, that children have to receiving an education and succeeding in life, then we can open so many doors."