Mercer County High School Students Repair Old Cars

Jared Cheline has been with the car restoration program for two years. Today, he is preparing for a career as a mechanic.

ALEDO, Ill. – A group of Mercer County High School students restore old cars.

It’s part of preparing students for life in the trades, and when you’re rebuilding a car, you need to have the right tools.

“Just like a LEGO set, except more dangerous,” said Jared Cheline.

Cheline is a senior at Mercer County High School in Aledo, and he’s been in the car restoration program there for two years. The program has been offered to students and community members for five years.

“There’s a lot of pride in knowing that you and your friends worked on this car,” Cheline said.

The group is autonomous. The students sell raffle tickets for each car each year, and a winner takes the car home after the town car show. A volunteer said the group had to sell about $20,000 worth of $10 raffle tickets to cover coins for each project.

Cheline and her classmates are currently working on restoring a 1978 El Camino before it is raffled off at the Aledo Antique Car Show in August.

The students have also restored a 1997 Corvette in years past.

“It’s definitely an expensive hobby, nothing cheap about it,” Nick Seefeld said.

Seefeld is one of the organizers of the Aledo Motor Show. He helped create a toolkit, which for the first time is given to a Mercer County High School senior pursuing a career in the trades.

“There are thousands of dollars worth of tools here that they are given that they don’t have to go out and buy to go to school,” Seefeld said.

Aaron Heartt, Curriculum Advisor and Director of Vocational Education at Mercer County High School, knows how much this toolkit will help.

“He showed me his tool list today and a lot of the tools in that box are going to be crossed off the list for him,” Heartt said.

The recipient, however, took his time.

“This thousand dollar toolbox will go to a gentleman, spent the last two years, worked very, very hard on the 1968 Mustang project we did, the current 1978 El Camino project, all the tickets and everything sold, Mr. Jared Cheline,” Heartt said as he presented the toolkit to Cheline.

Cheline now has the right tools for her job.

Cheline will attend Spoon River College in Canton, Illinois this fall. He will study to become a diesel mechanic and has already taken a job with John Deere to apply those skills.

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