By Patrick Lacombe, Correspondent
For most high school students, their main focus is on their career path. After graduating, some will go on to the university of their choice and others will use skills taught by instructors in high school and Technical or Vocational schools.
Here’s a common question: Is it possible to get a job that pays well without spending four or more years at a traditional college or university?
The answer is yes. Absolutely. In fact, a lot of people choose to bypass that longer path and end up with some of America’s highest-paying jobs. Without a degree like a bachelor’s, they are still able to out-earn many four-year college graduates.
Brian Bownds teaches Auto Mechanics to Belton High School students and guides them on their paths to becoming a “Master Mechanic.” Bownds is affectionately known as “Mister B” to his students and takes a “Hands On” approach while teaching these young adults the trade of their choice. “There are things that you gain from actual work experience that you can’t get by opening a book and reading about it. There’s nothing like learning by putting your hands on it,” said Bownds.
Mister B also takes a personal interest in each of his students. As the students file off the school bus, Bownds stands up and shakes each students hand and calls them by name. Bownds explained, “For me, it shows respect for the students and gives me a little insight to their personalities. It also helps me remember their names at the beginning of the school year.” Due to limited parking, students must catch a school bus at the high school and are transported to the Auto Shop on East Third Ave. then bussed back to the High School after class. Each class is two hours in duration, but due to travel time to and from the two campuses, actual classroom time is one and a half hours.
Starting in the next school year, The auto technician class will move to a new building at the High School campus at 600 Lake Road in Belton. The upcoming move has Bownds and his students excited. “We will have a bigger classroom and a lot more storage in the new shop and the move will also add more classroom time to the course.” Explained Bownds.
When asked if all of his students plan on staying in the automotive field once they graduate, Bownds said, “We have a fairly large number of students who want to continue with it and become auto technicians, but we also have a few who want to learn how to work on their own cars. Most plan on going on to Tech schools like TSTC or UTI to further their education in automotive mechanics. I know that a good diesel mechanic can make upwards of a hundred thousand dollar a year with the right company.”
Bownds has been with the BISD for four years. Prior to that, he taught auto mechanics at Temple High for eight years. He spent 12 years in the U.S. Army, first as a light equipment mechanic, and worked his way up to heavy equipment and diesel mechanics.