The time and talents and plain old cash from Missoula's automotive businesses keep auto repair classes running like a well-tuned engine.

On Thursday, the Missoula County Public Schools district honored the more than 30 businesses, individuals and foundations that support its automotive program, which would not exist without them.

"You've given us money, you've given us time and you've given us mentors," said Alan Ault, president of the nonprofit Montana Automotive Technologies, which holds high school and adult hands-on car repair classes in Missoula.

Ault joined MCPS Superintendent Alex Apostle and several school board members at the MCPS Business Building at noon to thank the numerous businesses that lend their staff and resources to the program - shops that do everything from oil changes to body work to major engine overhauls.

"My motivation is the kids," said Rick Booth, owner of Rick's Auto Body, when asked about his business's involvement in the program. "They really should be out in the community. It's really a chance for them to see how the real world works."

Montana Automotive Technologies first teamed up with MCPS last year, after learning that the district hasn't had auto repair classes for more than two decades.

Apostle, who had embarked on his 21st century schools initiative by then, seized on the opportunity to let MCPS students get real-world training outside the traditional classroom.

"The people we are honoring today are contributing to every major initiative we're pursuing at MCPS," including 21st century schools and Graduation Matters, he said.

Among those being honored was the Washington Foundation, which surprised both Apostle and Ault by delivering a $5,000 check to the program.

MCPS school board chairwoman Toni Rehbein said students respond with gratitude when they see that businesses are volunteering their staff and resources for the betterment of their education.

"It touches their hearts in a very special way," she said. "And it means more to them than you can imagine."

Among the businesses honored were Midas Muffler, Zip Auto, Montana Transmission Service, Warrior Autoworks, NAPA Auto, Tire-Rama and many others.

Reporter Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at


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