Jonathan Almodovar is the best in the nation at what he does. Only a select few can ever say that, and even fewer who are still in high school.
Almodovar, a senior at Saginaw High School, won the SkillsUSA national competition in Automotive Maintenance and Light Repair in June in Atlanta.
“I haven’t yet processed the fact that I am a national champion, but once I succeed in the automotive industry, I will remember what got me there,” Almodovar said.
After learning he was one of three finalists, Almodovar recalled the moment.
“I’m up on stage and hearing the other people next to me get called for third and second place before me, and I was in disbelief,” he said.
The technical competition was composed of 10 stations, each with an 18-minute time limit. It included tasks that an entry-level technician would need to be able to perform, such as multi-point inspections, brake system measurements, tire sensor diagnosis, electrical systems functions and testing procedures. It also included a written test, job interview simulation, and safety practices.
In short, students were competing to prove they are the best prepared to work in an automotive repair shop and repair a vehicle.
“Overall, the competition was quite intense, especially when you got to a topic in which you struggled,” Almodovar said.
Ernie Cruz, Almodovar’s automotive and technology teacher at Eagle Mountain Saginaw’s Hollenstein Career & Technology Center, said his student’s drive to succeed and learn was critical.
“That helped him learn all that he needed to succeed at all levels of the SkillsUSA contests,” Cruz said. “His calm demeanor stood out to me. He was, as he always is, cool, calm, and collected, at least on the outside.”
Almodovar did not win at the district or state levels in qualifying for nationals. He was second in both, which motivated him to do his best at the most important moment.
As a sophomore, Almodovar finished fifth in district. He has, however, won numerous awards in other competitions, which made him realize he had the potential for great success.
He also learned by watching his older brother, who competed in the same program and with whom he has been working on cars for over two years. He regularly works on cars, both at home and at school.
“My biggest project ever was restoring and modifying every exterior part on my personal car,” he said. “My dream project is to build an automotive performance shop from scratch.”
Saginaw High School Principal Cynthia Webber said Almodovar’s accomplishment is not only a reflection of his dedication, skills and hard work, but it is also an inspiration for his fellow students and those in the future.
“Jonathan’s success at the national level will have a positive impact on other students on our campus and within our district,” Webber said. “His achievement serves as an inspiration and sets an example for fellow students, showing them that with perseverance and commitment, they too can achieve great things.”
Almodovar’s college plans are to attend Dallas College Eastfield Campus and participate in the Honda Pact program while also working at a Honda dealership. Later, he wants to use his experience and certificates to open his “dream shop.”
Before that, however, is a little matter of defending his championship. He noted that it’s not often a title is defended as most have been won by seniors.
“I do plan on entering again as a senior since I know I have the knowledge and experience to perform well in this contest,” he said. “From my experience underclassmen don’t usually win this competition.
“I am proud of how far I’ve come and I believe anyone can reach their goals if they are dedicated enough and are willing to work hard for them.”