Shelby students who attended SEMA are pictured with the GT350 that was on display at the Shelby Heritage Center. From left is: Sam Nichols, Javier Macias, Josh Sigal, Kolby Perkins, and Rebekah Briggs.
Sometimes the most impactful learning experiences happen far from the classroom. Students in the Carroll Shelby Automotive Program at Northeast Texas Community College recently learned this as they had the opportunity to attend the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Six Shelby students and three instructors spent the first week of November at the world’s largest automotive aftermarket show. In addition to exploring the exhibits, the group also attended the Shelby American reception at the Shelby Heritage Center.
“Attending SEMA gets students interacting with car builders and vendors and allows them to see the latest in automotive technology. It really lets them experience what they have been learning in the classroom in a real-world setting,” Ron Luellen, Director of the Shelby Automotive Program, said.
The NTCC program displayed its own vehicle at the Shelby Heritage Center during SEMA. Instructors Zach Strawbridge and Anthony Gil transported the college’s 1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 convertible (pictured) to Las Vegas. The rare vehicle is one of two recently donated by Barry Smith of Legendary GT in Roaring Spring, PA. Beth Van Dyke, a former Shelby student, was on the build team for the restoration when she was an intern with Legendary GT in 2021. The cars will eventually be auctioned off by Barrett-Jackson to raise money for the Shelby program.
“I have been to SEMA twice now and what I have taken away from both opportunities is the growth in my appreciation for custom builds. Seeing the time and effort put in to each build provides an appreciation for the completed product,” Josh Sigal, a second year Shelby student who also worked as an intern at Shelby American this summer, said. “The Shelby program has opened doors in my life that I thought were not possible.”
NTCC’s relationship with the legendary automotive brand began with Carroll Shelby himself back in 2007. As a native of Leesburg, Shelby always felt an affinity for Northeast Texas and liked the idea of providing scholarships to help local students learn the automotive trade. The Carroll Shelby Automotive Program was established in 2008 and the Shelby Foundation has been providing scholarships and unique learning opportunities for students ever since.
“Carroll lived an extraordinary life, but he never forgot where he came from. We know he could have partnered with any college, but he chose NTCC because he believed in giving kids from this area a chance to excel in the field he loved. Even after his death, the Shelby Foundation and Carroll’s grandson, Aaron, have continued to carry on his legacy by providing scholarships for NTCC students. Being affiliated with Shelby has opened so many doors for the college and its students and we are grateful for that support,” Dr. Jonathan McCullough, NTCC Executive Vice President for Advancement, said.
One such student who has benefited from Shelby’s vision is Kolby Perkins, who attended SEMA this year.
“SEMA opened my eyes to the automotive world, as there’s so much future potential in the industry. The Shelby program has shaped my young mind with a trade that has molded me into the strong young man I am today. I have no doubt that I can both survive and thrive with my foot in the door of the future of mechanics – and it’s all thanks to Carroll Shelby himself, and this great program he has built,” Perkins said.