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MIAMI (CBS4) – Auto tycoon Norman Braman, who funded the recall of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, is trying to change the county once again on his own dime.

He’s opened up his dealership to South Florida’s inner city students in hopes of giving them a helping hand.

Inside Braman’s brand new repair shop in Downtown Miami he’s dedicated an entire wing for a start up program to teach tomorrow’s mechanics. The shop’s twenty five students were all hand picked from Miami-Dade’s inner city schools. They had to audition and pass drug tests. Most of the students look like they are just out of high school and most of them are. In teams of five, they are all focused on the task at hand; learn to disassemble and reassemble an engine.

While most would call it work, they don’t

“It’s Christmas everyday,” said Aubrey Wilson.

Joselyn Morrero, the lone girl in the class, said she celebrated when she learned she had made the cut because she felt like she had won the lottery.

“You feel like it’s congratulations? Like you accomplished something,” CBS4’s David Sutta asked her.

“Yes, and I keep on accomplishing everyday. It’s not going to stop,” said Morrero who pointed out she beat out 50 other students to be in the class.

From the all the equipment and engines to the student’s uniforms, the program is not cheap. Rich Lotito, who teaches the program, said the students are told right up front they are not expected to pay for any of it.

“They don’t, their tuition is covered,” said Lotito.

The program’s books, the uniforms, tools and even a shuttle to class is paid for by Braman.

“The main intent is to help the inner city schools, help the inner city children and help these students, hopefully, get good paying jobs where they can take care of their families in the future and become upstanding citizens,” said Braman’s attorney Stanley Krieger.

“This is huge,” said teacher Rich Lotito as he talked about how they’re taking lessons from the classroom straight into the shop where the students work alongside master mechanics.

“They look at that and it’s not like being in the classroom and being told when you show up to work you better do what you are told. They get to see it first hand,” said Lotito.

The program was Braman’s idea; it was his way of turning lives around for those who could commit.

David Schleiden, a school district representative who has overseen the program since it’s inception, believes the students will go far.

“They are going to learn a skill that going to take them the rest of their life. One in five jobs in the United States is related to the automotive industry and they are on the ground floor of it,” said Schleiden.

The two year program will prepare them for jobs and Braman said he’s hoping to hire many of them.

Anyone under the age of 25 and interested in the program can call (305) 558-8000 for more information. Any garage or automotive repair facility interested in hiring one of these students can call that number as well.


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