“We walk into the classroom and the learning point for me is to never give the kids anything they will be distracted by, or they will be,” Houchen says. “It was an animal house. We had people making out, glooming onto their girlfriends. We had somebody with a dart gun. It was a gong show. They wouldn’t sit down. I told one of the instructors we had to make a rule: ‘if I leave my gun at home they have to leave their gun at home too.”
Houchen thought he’d made a horrible mistake.
“I figure I’m going to come to the college in a few days and that the program will be dead, because all of the instructors will be gone,” Houchen continues. “I walk into the college the next day, and the instructors have gone home thinking the same thing. This made them adjust their approach and made the safety training of the program hands on. I walk in a few days later and they’re all welding, talking about safety, and I asked what happened?”
“That’s all it took, an activity instead of sitting at desks, something over which a couple of people from different walks of life could start a meaningful conversation.”
Commitment on both the adults’ and participants’ sides was cemented in that moment.
The program is not just a classroom. The goal is to build relationships, and that involves dropping the armor on all sides.
It’s also a big deal that VCC got involved.
There was money to do some mechanics, but no instructors and no place to do the program. Cold letters were sent to VCC and BCIT, and VCC responded. This was the same time that Vasiljević met Houchen, and they talked about repairing small engines, like lawn mowers or go carts.
Houchen says, “I wanted to build a community car and just happened to have a 1935 cop car.”
They had the kids, a cop, a car, and a school. Now they had a program.