Club Spotlight: Automotive Club


Juhi Bhatia

Joseph Newman (9) takes off the rocker-arms of an engine.

Juhi Bhatia, Staff Writer

When you first enter the autoshop during an automotive club meeting at Wilcox, the atmosphere is filled with vigor, laughter, and passion for the art of the internal structure of the motor vehicle. In this club you can become knowledgeable about the service and maintenance of the automobile, develop leadership skills used to support the community, and join competitive automotive events.
Freshman Luis Rodriguez, who joined the club for only a semester, recalls how he can already repair a motor from a 1960’s Chevy. With only a few months in automotive club, Rodriguez has discovered his passion for engines and plans to pursue a career in automotive management.
The automotive club affiliates with an automotive competition called, “Hot Rodders of Tomorrow”. Rahul Shetty, captain of varsity team one, and his teammates, Gabriella Khanitsky, Johnson Pham, Riley Tillman, Melanie Guerrero, and Sayan Sisodiya, compete to build the best engine. This is the sixth year Wilcox has had an engine team that “out of over 150 teams, are one of the fifty that went [to dual nationals]” Shetty explains. The dual nationals are sometimes held in Las Vegas, where the team has gone for the past four years.
Some competitions help students pursue their education in automotive mechanics. If a member qualifies for nationals, they automatically receive a $5,000 scholarship to specific technical institutes.
The automotive club uses their club meetings as time to work on their projects. Matthew Zazkowski, a junior automotive member, describes his daily experience in the auto shop as “hands on work”. They meet to learn skills “you can use in everyday experiences.” Gabriella Khanitsky, senior president of automotive club, claims this club is very different from other clubs because they are a practical club. She explains, “We love car culture and we get together over that, but we also work with our hands and we don’t just talk about it. That’s what most clubs do; [not only do we] get together and watch movies, but we use our hands and knowledge to work on things”
The club’s advisor and small engines teacher, Jozef Antolin, coaches the engine teams and finds activities for the members of the club to do. Khanitsky defines Mr. Antolin as a “knowledgeable, helpful, and funny” teacher who cares for every student and is “super tolerant.” She compares him to a father in the way that he watches over his students and raises them to their greatest potential.
The majority of members in the club agree that their favorite part of the club is breaking things. For example, Shetty enjoys pulling things apart and putting them back together. He explains that this helps him understand the internal stucture of the object. “This helps me fix things that are broken in a car,” Shetty enthusiastically says.
Bonding is unique in the club because everyone is always working on a project. Instead, Shetty says, “we bond over pulling a drive shaft out of a ranchera.” Additionally, the members form friendships over the trips they take for their competitions. However, every Friday, while the engine teams are practicing, Khanitsky buys almost one hundred dollars worth of Mcdonald’s to share with all the members as a mukbang bonding.
Overall, Wilcox automotive club is a diverse and energetic team. As Khanitsky explains, “if you look at all these people, I would never have thought I would talk to any of them. They are underclassmen, they are not like anyone I would really talk to. Now we are all friends.” Their adoration for cars allowed many diverse students to form a second family at Wilcox.