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published on May 16, 2005 . Page 6 . OAKLAND TECH NEWS . Oakland County, MI
Non-Profit Group to Offer
Free Automotive Technician Courses to the Underprivileged
Motown Automotive Professionals to Train Youth
By Irena Granaas Staff Reporter
A group of automobile enthusiasts want to "drive"
underprivileged young people on to success and pass on their
passion for cars to the next generation.
that end, several members of the Motown Automotive
Professionals (MAP) launched a non-profit organization
in 2003. Entitled "Motown Automotive Professionals
nonprofit", it was founded by MAP members Marcus
Simmons, president of the nonprofit group, along
with Sylvester Gurley and George Glenn, for the
purpose of offering underprivileged youth in the
metropolitan Detroit area free training to become
nationally-certified automotive technicians.
In a recent interview, Simmons, a Southfield resident,
discussed the non-profit organization's plans to open up for
classes in September 2005.
group works with underprivileged youth who don't
have the funds or the opportunity to go to college,"
Simmons explained that the original club is a casual
social gathering of people who are interested in cars, from
show cars, to racecars, to street rods. He explained that
without access to training or education after high school,
underprivileged youth are at risk for getting into trouble.
we want to give our love of cars to this generation
so they can become productive members of the community,"
non-profit group, which started with the aforementioned three
members, grew to a membership of seven after the group began
getting some publicity, including a 2004 feature aired by
Channel 2-FOX News.
we are waiting for 501(c)(3) non-profit certification
from the IRS," Simmons said. "We should have that
by the end of June."
non-profit group has unsigned contracts with the
Salvation Army for classroom space for the September
startup, and organizers expect that once they receive
501(c)(3) nonprofit status they will be able to
set up a more permanent facility of their own rather
than renting space.
Simmons said the non-profit group would have several
certified teachers on hand to teach the curriculum. He noted
that the group decided to train their students to the national
level of certification because it's a tougher standard than
the state demands and will make them more marketable.
In the meantime, Simmons has been making the rounds of
various schools in the Detroit metro area, talking to students
about opportunities in the motor sports field.
"Also, I do presentations on goal setting," he said.
He speaks to troubled teens one-on-one or in large
groups, working to inspire them to choose positive goals.
Just meeting Simmons ought to get high schoolers
thinking about setting loftier goals for themselves.
Simmons, a mechanical engineer who retired after 20
years at GM, is blind and also has lost a large percentage of
He suffered those losses due to an inherited condition,
Usher's Syndrome, in which hearing loss is coupled with
He attended the Detroit Day School for the Deaf, and
then graduated from Cass Technical High School in 1963. He
received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from
Wayne State University in 1977.
The retinitis pigmentosa took his sight gradually, and
until 1980, he was still able to drive. He admits, however,
that towards the end his driving depended on a combination of
skill, memory and luck, and luck was running out. This was
fortunate as he was able to drive himself from home to school
"The Lord was kind enough to let me keep my eyesight so
I could finish school," Simmons explained.
He was left with only 10 percent of his vision and 30
percent of his hearing. But he didn't let that stop him.
Simmons overcame these challenges and spent 40
successful years in the automotive service field.
After earning his engineering degree from WSU, he worked
as an automotive engineer with GM, gaining experience in every
position held by the workers under him. He worked as a
research technician, in dealerships, service stations and on
After losing his eyesight, Simmons built a replica of a
1965 Shelby 427 S/C Cobra from the ground up. A Boss 302 Ford
engine with a Gale Banks twin turbocharger powers the
The auto technician program the non-profit group is
organizing will accept underprivileged male and female
students in the metropolitan Detroit region who are either
high school graduates, or who have dropped out but can show
they have a real desire to become technicians.
The minimum age is 16, but there is no set upper age
Simmons emphasized, however, that this is not an
invitation for anyone now in school to drop out.
"We're not taking them if they're going to quit school
to come here," he stated firmly.
interested in supporting Motown Automotive Professionals
nonprofit or anyone who wants to attend classes
in the Fall can go to the official website at www.map-n.org;
or call Simmons at (248) 552-8928.