Dennis Hopson, ex-NBA player and TPS Proud graduate of Bowsher High School, admits he can be picky.

So it’s doubly impressive when he praises the recent work that was done on his truck by seniors in the Waite High School automotive collision program. The two-year program, taking during a student’s junior and senior years, currently has about 30 students.

“They did a nice job – I’m excited,” said Mr. Hopson, who dropped his truck off in October and picked it up last week.

“Any time I can give back to TPS students, I’m more than willing to do that,” said Mr. Hopson, Ohio State University’s career scorer who played five years in the National Basketball Association.

The students were excited to work on the vehicle of such a well-known basketball player, but they brought the same dedication to the project that they have brought to other projects, says Doug Gogol, the program's director.

Mr. Hopson says he uses the truck to pull his trailer, but wasn’t crazy about the flames that the body sported. He says he paid $1,600 for the project – a job he estimates would have cost him $4,000 if he had taken it to a professional shop.

Work that was done on Mr. Hopson’s truck included:
• Removing all the body panels from the vehicle
• Stripping down the old paint finish
• Repairing dents
• Repairing an old faulty body repair on roof, removing all old body filler and re-straightening the roof
• Repairing fiberglass bedside flares and rear bumper (they had about 100 cracks in them)
• Priming all body panels after body repairs
• Painting the whole truck
• Wet sanding and buffing the entire truck

Working on Mr. Hopson’s truck was the perfect hands’ on project that teacher Mr. Gogol likes to give his seniors.

The Waite automotive collision program is just one of the nearly three dozen programs that are under the Career Tech umbrella at Toledo Public Schools. All of the programs are aimed at providing students with hands-on experiences during high school that will allow them to make a seamless transition to the work force or to college.

Most are two-year programs designed for juniors and seniors, although a few cover four years of high school and include freshmen and sophomores as well.

During the first year of the automotive collision program, juniors learn a variety of skills, including:

  • Welding Vehicle Construction
  • Plasma Cutting Cooling and Heating/Automotive
  • Oxyacetylene Torch Air Bags Systems
  • Work and Personal Safety Brake and Suspensions
  • Sheet Metal Repair Paint Spraying Fundamentals
  • Plastic Repair and Welding Panel Replacement
  • Hand/Power Tools Door Assemblies
  • Fasteners and Materials Interior Trim
  • OSHA Safety Certificate Window Removal/Replacement

When they are seniors, the students spend their first two months learning how to custom paint a vehicle and applying all previously achieved skills. But time is also spent on Skills USA competitions, learning how to write a resume and interviewing skills, customer relations and working on paying jobs like Mr. Hopson’s.

During the fourth quarter of their senior year, these students can opt to work on their own cars or participate in the School to Work program, where they spend half a day at a company, actually earning a paycheck. The district is expanding such a program because employers are clamoring for Career Tech students who have a higher-than-average graduation rate than students in traditional studies and can hit the ground running.

Studies have shown that there are 600,000 skilled jobs going unfilled and 10 million new skilled workers are needed by 2020. Targeted Career Technology pathways lead to some of the most 'high growth careers' forecast for the next 20 years

Cassandra Paniagua, an art teacher now in charge of the Agriculture, Construction & Engineering programs under the TPS Career Tech umbrella, said she hopes that the School to Work program can be expanded for the automotive collision program.

“We want these kids to get jobs, good paying jobs,” she says.

Students – or parents and guardians – interested in learning more about the TPS Career Tech programs should search for Career Tech at

Posted on March 20, 2017