This content was published: February 17, 2020. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.
Student Salomon Luna is using Auto Service’s green tech classes to his advantage
Photos and Story by Sarah Rose Evans
Salomon Luna understands the importance of going green for his degree and Portland Community College’s Automotive Technology Program is there to provide him with the skills necessary to reach his goal.
“It’s the future,” said Luna, who is in his second year in the program and wants to work for an electric or hybrid carmaker. “I don’t think gas is going to be around for too much longer.”
PCC’s Auto Service Program focuses on training students in the latest technology, including hybrid and electric vehicles. It’s Sylvania Campus shop is equipped with 40 test vehicles, numerous above ground hoists, computerized four-wheel alignment racks, a chassis dynamometer, and many other specialized tools. It has been the regional epicenter for learning about alternative fuel vehicles, and has earned national recognition for its hybrid and electric car battery curriculum.
“One of the primary goals of the automotive department is to prepare students to be ‘job ready’ upon program completion,” said Jay Kuykendall, automotive service instructor. “With most major manufacturers selling one or more hybrid or electric vehicles, it is as important as ever that students are ready to work on these vehicles. This training helps make students much more attractive to potential employers, including Tesla.”
In 2017, the program added the course called “Introduction to Hybrid and Electric Vehicles” to help students better prepare for these future jobs. Students like Luna, who wants to someday work for the cutting-edge electric car maker Tesla, are excited about the possibilities ahead once they graduate.
“My current job is exhausting, but with this program I can get a job earning decent money, and still have energy left at the end of the day,” Luna said. “I can work on cars all day, and then go home happy.”
Even though cars are his passion, his road to this career wasn’t always clear to Luna. His family moved to Beaverton from Virginia when he was 12, and he would later have trouble succeeding in high school.
“When I dropped out of high school around 17, I started working as a Certified Nursing Assistant,” Luna said. “But working at the hospital is mentally and physically draining for me, and I wanted to find something more sustainable.”
After five years working as a CNA, he decided he needed to go back to school and earn his GED.
“The biggest hurdle for me was getting my head back into the game for studying,” he said. “I never thought school was going to be for me. Once I got fed up with my job, where I was doing something I didn’t truly want to do, it kinda just came to me (to go back to school). You’ve got to push yourself.”
After earning his GED from PCC, Luna saved up to buy the tools he needed and enrolled in PCC’s Automotive Service Program. Since starting at the Sylvania shop last year, he has immersed himself in the training, especially the hybrid and electric vehicle classes.
“I’m just focused on school,” said Luna, who works on cars at home in his spare time. “PCC is a lot better than what I thought college ever would be.”
To help pay for his classes, Luna earned a PCC Foundation scholarship. He still has to work part-time in healthcare, but the scholarship money takes the stress out of his life as he transitions.
“Not having to worry about paying for college gives me more time to study and work on cars,” he added.
After taking Kuykendall’s class Luna wants to further his education. He’d like to earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Portland State University after graduating from PCC with an associate degree. He said this will give him the skills he needs to eventually work on, and design, future cars for manufacturers like Tesla — his dream job.
Luna credits PCC for being there to help him train for his new career and put him on the right road to achieve his goal.
“Anyone who asks me, I tell them to start at PCC,” he smiled. “There’s a lot of resources, like tutoring or counseling, and you can talk to your teachers to help you out. It’s your best bet, especially if you plan to transfer. It’s a good stepping stone.”