Leila Pope is a senior student in the automotive program at Heritage High School in Palm Bay, FL. Leila is credited as a knowledge seeker and a sponge -anything her instructor shows her, she soaks it all in and it shows in each of her tasks. The summer of 2021 was both tough and rewarding for Leila, as she went to summer school in June and began working for one of her school districts bus garages as a technician intern in July. After impressing them so much at the bus garage, Leila was asked to come back and utilize the on-the-job training program during her senior year.
Leila, can you tell us what first inspired you to take automotive classes?
Ever since I was as young as I can remember, I was always working on cars with my family and my family races. So, from a very young age, I was always involved with cars, and it just drove my passion.”
What’s a Day-to-Day experience like for you?
Every school day, I go to class from first to third period, which is around 11:00, and after that, I go straight to the garage. So, I get the school day done, and then I go into the garage and it’s like you never know what you’re going to walk into. It’s like it’s something new every day. It’s crazy, but it’s such a cool experience because it’s almost like staying in school as well, because I’m working with the school board. I get to discuss with them things that are going on with school, but it’s still a learning experience all around. I feel like I’m always in school because I’m always learning. But I love it so much.
You’ve most likely had more hands-on experience than a lot of other people that may be in your class or other classes. Have you had the opportunity to mentor other people in your classes?
There’s been a few times where I stepped into the classes lower than me and even helped people in my class, I think there’s always opportunities to teach somebody something. My instructor always tells me that there’s always somebody smarter than you. So, no matter who you are, or how experienced you are, there’s always something you don’t know. I definitely keep that in mind for myself. I try to remember that I’m not the smartest person out there. And somebody always knows more. And I love teaching people. And I love being taught. So, I definitely take that opportunity with every chance I can get.
What’s one of your favorite projects or repairs to work on?
I absolutely love upholstery. Almost every single bus that we pull in, there’s always something to do, like repair holes in the seats or replace seat belts. It is one of my favorite things to do. It is so time consuming. It can be super difficult. But I absolutely love doing it!
It sounds like you have a busy schedule, how do you manage juggling both school and work?
It hasn’t been easy. I definitely wouldn’t say it’s been easy. It’s definitely put a lot of experience under my belt for what it’s going to be like in the future. It showed me a lot of responsibility on how to balance these responsibilities in your life. But even though it’s not easy, it is very enjoyable, and I’m so grateful for it.
Tell us about your plans for the future
I plan on actually going to a school in Jacksonville to get certified in diesel technology. That’s one of the main reasons why I took this opportunity. I knew I could get experience before getting experience. I wanted to set myself up very well for the future. So, this way I’m not kind of being thrown into something that I’ve never had to deal with before. I’ve also been looking at the school for quite a few years now and I got myself set up with scholarships and have done some College tours.
Leila’s high school instructor, Michael Broud, says “She’s taught me as much as I think I’ve taught her and being accepting of all of my students, being a better person and encouraging kids that are struggling and I wish her the best and taking on Diesel is a big undertaking and I’m so proud of her to not shy away from it. It’s her passion. I’m going to keep in contact with her. Leila has become part of my family and I’ve become part of their family outside of school, and I certainly will follow her and keep encouraging her and keep supporting her.”