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SISD diesel technology program drives first graduates toward successful careers

Elijah Amezaga and Jesus Torres repairing an engine

Graduating students in the Socorro Independent School District’s diesel technology program are shifting their careers into high gear thanks to a partnership with Rush Truck Centers and Peterbilt Motors Company.

Seniors Elijah Amezaga and Jesus Torres were the first diesel technology students to secure paid internships with Rush Truck Centers this spring. Rush will sponsor Amezaga and Torres this summer to continue their education at the Peterbilt Technical Institute (PTI) in Denton, Texas, after they graduate high school in June.

“I never knew the world of opportunities that were going to open up!” said Amezaga, a Socorro High School Bulldog, whose stepfather is a truck driver, and uncle is a commercial driver’s license instructor. “My family is extremely proud. Who would have known that the diesel program would have opened so many opportunities that I never knew existed, from not knowing what to do after high school to now getting (PTI) fully guaranteed and paid.”

Gerardo Soria, the program’s diesel instructor, said Rush has strongly supported the district’s first diesel technology program since it launched at Socorro High School in 2021. It is one of 45 Career and Technical Education programs available to high school students districtwide. The program will celebrate its first cohort of seven graduates in June.

“I’m very thankful to Rush for being our partners because it makes a big impact on these students,” Soria said.

Soria said Peterbilt and Rush donated engines, diagnostic equipment, and Peterbilt online training, which have helped to set the students up for success and start a career as diesel technicians upon graduation.

Students in the program can earn certifications that prepare them to maintain and repair brakes, diesel engines, suspension and steering, and electrical and electronic systems.

The hands-on training Amezaga and Torres received in class helped them obtain paid internships at Rush, where they have honed their skills working on brakes, radiators, PN measurements, oil changes and more.  

“What I like is working with my hands, getting dirty and learning new stuff,” said Torres, who will graduate from Eastlake High School in June.  

Torres is looking forward to getting his hands dirty in the diesel program when he and Amezaga start PTI this summer.

At PTI, students obtain specialized training on Peterbilt engines and equipment. They get hands-on training with company products and technologies and earn factory certifications to prepare them for a career as a Peterbilt technician.

“My career goals are to go to PTI, finish it, become a level 2 tech and just continue moving up the ranks, continue getting ASEs (Automotive Service of Excellence certifications), get my master ASE, getting all the knowledge I can and hopefully, and in a couple of years, move up to that level 5,” Amezaga said.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that there will be an average of about 28,500 job openings for diesel technicians every year across the nation over the next 10 years. According to ZipRecruiter, the average hourly pay for an entry level diesel technician in Texas is approximately $14.24 an hour.

“It’s just amazing all these opportunities these kids have … being 18 years old and having great jobs,” said Soria, a Socorro High School alumnus. “When I started working as a diesel tech, I was at a minimum wage of less than $7. Now they’re starting from $14 to $20 an hour.”

Amezaga said he would absolutely encourage other students to apply to the diesel technology program. He said the program allows students to prepare for a career in high school and get ahead in life.

“When you have an amazing opportunity like this, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of it?” Amezaga said.

Published May 25, 2023

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