The sleek stock cars parked inside Martin Luther King High School on Wednesday weren’t displayed prominently, but they certainly caught the eyes of students and staff members.
The duo, displayed during an event aimed at teaching safe driving, symbolized the ceremonial start of a unique partnership that will expand and enrich MLK’s automotive engineering and STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — curricula.
For the first time ever, the Philadelphia Urban Youth Racing School has teamed up with a public school to introduce more students to the academics and athletics behind competitive motor sports.
“We’re going to try and grow it from the ground up,” said Ryan Baxter, a physics and STEM teacher at the West Oak Lane school, during the event which was sponsored by Toyota.
The partnership will also give students a taste of the business end of the industry. They’ll write extensively about the projects and learn how they might pitch them to major players like NASCAR and Formula One.
It’s all welcome news for junior O’Neil Goulbourne, who lives and breathes cars.
The automotive-engineering student, who works at an auto-repair shop after school, said there’s always more to learn when it comes to cars. And he’s eager to get started.
“I need to learn a lot of new stuff,” said Goulbourne.
Drawing positive attention
Goulbourne is also excited about the spotlight the partnership may shine on MLK. Nobody, he noted, hears about the positive things going on inside the Stenton Avenue school.
MLK Principal William Wade said he hopes teaming up with the city’s only racing school will do just that.
He wanted to send the message to those sizing up the School District of Philadelphia and incoming students from Germantown High School which, after 99 years, will close at the end of the year, sending many to MLK.
“We are proving that we are worth the funding,” said Wade.
The school’s top administrator also had his eye on the economy Wednesday night – jobs in particular.
“Everyone knows that there’s [limited] minority representation in NASCAR,” he said, “and we want to change that.”
Starting Saturday, 10 students from MLK will start off in a summer program at the Youth Racing School that will kick-off the partnership.
Come September, staff at MLK and racing-school experts will collaborate on lessons that will be taught throughout the school year.
“This could change the community and change these young people’s lives,” said state Sen. LeAnna Washington, who helped connect MLK and the racing school.
Said Philadelphia Urban Youth Racing School founder Anthony Martin, “I think it’s going to be very, very powerful.”