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INDIANAPOLIS — A program to teach teens and young adults about working on cars is also giving them important life skills. 

The City Life Wheels has different programs including an academy that helps those ages 18 to 22. 

“I was a changed man. It really did help me a lot. It helped me completely. If it wasn’t for this program I’m not sure where I’d be right now,” said David Garcia who just finished the program this past year. 

They get this opportunity for free. In fact, they get a stipend to be in the academy. 

The program teaches trade skills to work in the automotive industry, but also job skills and confidence that can transfer to whatever route the students choose to take.  

“For me, there was really nothing interesting about school,” said City Life Wheels alumni Edgar Lopez.  

“So, me having something like this to join kinda brought more inspiration and made my childhood more fun.” 

For Lopez, the City Life Wheels Academy changed his outlook on education. 

“A lot of that came from getting advice from people that were older than me, getting help with homework, as well as working on cars, so that was pretty awesome,” Lopez said.  

He joined when he was 14 and says it taught him many of the skills he still uses 10 years later in his career today in management. 

“I am a lot better at talking to people, I’m a lot better at interacting with people,” said Lopez.  

That’s what Academy Director Nate Hershey says is the point of the program. 

“To be able to go, ‘hey you’re valuable, you’re important and we want to help you find the skills you have, so you can be happy, so you can find a career that’s great for you,’” Hershey said. 

They teach them all the basics of working on vehicles to be able to go into an industry in need of workers. 

But they want to make as much of an impact as possible, whether the students stay in automotives or not. 

“Be a part of a committed group that can invest and builds into their lives as students hopefully to push them and to drive them to be successful in life,” said City Life Wheels Director Kurtis Adkins. 

It’s something alumni from the program agree with. 

“Even if you may not end up being a mechanic, you earn a lot of skills. You meet a lot of awesome people, make a lot of great relationships, so this is a great group to be in,” Lopez said. 

Even though he didn’t go into a career working on cars, recent grad David Garcia says the program did help him find direction in his life and says it can do the same for others. 

“If you’re just completely lost, and I don’t mean just skipping class or nothing like that, I just mean if you’re like, ‘I don’t really know what I want to do in life. If you’re ever feeling like that, always look out, look around for programs like this,” Garcia said. 

Outside of the academy they also have a program where students can go learn from volunteers on Tuesday nights. And a soapbox program for even younger kids to get involved in automotives. 

You can request more information here.