FORT BELVOIR, Va. -During June, teenagers with Fort Belvoir's Child, Youth and School Services got a jump start in basic automotive care from their friends at the Kawamura Community Center Automotive Shop.

The class is part of the CYSS Edge Program, which offers a variety of after-school activities to teenagers and other children throughout the year. T'Erra Proctor, outreach lead coordinator for the program, said it's been fun watching the group learn about tire maintenance, oil changes and brake realignments. She also said classes like this are great building blocks for CYSS.

"We want to build partnerships with as many organizations as we can," Proctor said. "It not only helps our program, but provides something extra for our kids to have fun with. This particular class has been great. They've gotten a lot out of it."

Leading the class has been multi-craft manager Rick Toppings and mechanic Isaac Boateng. Both said they've had fun passing along their knowledge of cars to the group. Toppings also provided a useful tip for the teens to keep in mind.

"Parents are more likely to lend their car out if they know their kids can take good care of it," Toppings said. "The last thing a mother or father wants to hear is that the car broke down at the mall. So, recognizing tire tread and checking the oil can go a long way."

Matthew Phillips, who turns 17 next month, heard about the class from his friend and fellow classmate, Drake Logsdon. According to him, his interest in cars has grown over the years and he's found the class to be quite valuable.

"I've definitely learned a lot. The best part is that it's hands-on. That's really helped me," Phillips said. "My father, Thomas, is serving in Iraq and I'm taking care of his car until he gets back.
Getting a chance to do something yourself is a great way to learn."

Like Phillips, Logsdon's interest in cars keeps growing, as well. With the help of his parents, he recently purchased his first car and will soon be working as an apprentice through the body shop. He plans on putting in 180 hours for a stipend of $500.

"The class has been great and I'm really looking forward to working here this summer. I'll be shadowing Isaac and learning all the ins and outs about cars," Logsdon said. "It's nice to be paid for something you like doing."

The notion that women don't know their way around a car was also proven wrong by twin sisters Priscilla and Lauren Rosario. The two 15 year-olds first signed up for the class in December, but heard it would be rescheduled for another time. When they found out it was being offered every Tuesday in June, their interest remained in high gear.

"It's been interesting and different. We've learned a lot by watching our teachers and then getting a chance to do it ourselves," said Priscilla. "You can't beat that."