Discovering talented teenagers in the classroom

Taft, Southwest high schools show off the future

SAN ANTONIO – Octavio Chavez puts the measuring stick for the transmission fluid back in the slot and declares the amount is correct.

He is one of several seniors at Southwest High School who have been in the auto-tech program since he started high school.

When it comes to auto technicians, there is a void in the workforce and he is hoping to fill it after graduation.

"It is something that I enjoy and I know I am good at," said Chavez.

With the experience he has gained through the program, he should be able to land a job after graduation.

The same goes for senior Julie Rivera. She is in collision repair and has won best-in-state awards for her auto-painting skills. Her future is a tech school in Houston then doing paintjobs on motorcycles.

"You get to express yourself in art," said Rivera.

Every so often, the rooms at Taft High School are filled with the sweet voice of Deja Hall. She was a Top 20 contestant on the NBC show "The Voice."

Even though she loves to sing and would love to make it a career, she knows it can be a tough business -- so she has a plan. Since she runs track and is on the Taft basketball team, she wants to be a physical therapist.

"I know what it is like to get injured and the process it takes to develop you muscles back. I feel like helping others is something I want to do," said Hall.

Benjamin Verma and Rory Johnson are two seniors with engineering futures. They are competitive robot builders -- big robots, about 4 feet tall, with wheels and pulleys and arms and electronics that allow it to catch a ball the size of a big beach ball and shoot it like a basketball.

"(We) have to design it and build it and test it and learn how to run it in a competitive way," Verma said.

"I like the programming aspect of this, working with electronics," Johnson said.

There are also future military leaders in the classrooms.

Austin Bohler is a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force JROTC, and will soon be promoted to colonel. He is making plans to head to the Air Force Academy and then the wild blue yonder in a fighter jet.

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