ANDOVER — Superintendent John Lavoie is proud to share that Greater Lawrence Technical School students, in collaboration with the nonprofit Second Chance Cars, presented a refurbished Toyota Prius to a disabled veteran and her family Thursday.
Students and staff from the Automotive Collision & Repair and Automotive Technology programs made repairs and refurbished a 2008 Toyota Prius that was donated to Second Chance Cars by Leah Hokenson, of New York.
Second Chance Cars is a Concord-based nonprofit that provides refurbished, affordable used cars to low-income veterans and others so they can get to work.
Automotive Technology students Joeliz Rodriguez and Manuel Rosa, of Lawrence, and Alexis Cabrera, of Methuen, all juniors, contributed to mechanical work on the Prius, replacing a tie rod, belts, brake lights, wipers, rear shocks, turn signals and a tire pressure sensor, in addition to balancing and aligning tires and changing the oil.
“It’s really cool to see someone who really needed something get help because of something we were part of,” said Rosa, who hopes to get a business degree after high school.
“I feel proud,” said Cabrera, who hopes to continue his studies after high school to become an engineer. “It was an honor to be able to pass something good like this along.”
The car was unveiled to the family of a fully disabled U.S. Navy veteran, Desire, whose 4-year-old daughter Nivicari suffers from cystic fibrosis and congenital heart defects that required reconstruction of Nivicari’s heart. The family faces their daughter’s illnesses even as they struggle to find housing.
Nivicari explored the car as soon as it was unveiled, giving a thumbs up and looking through the back window of the hatchback as a Alexis Cabrera, a junior in the automotive technology program,attached a license plate.
The Prius will enable Desire’s husband Manuel to start picking up more shifts at work, boosting the family’s income.
“This really helps our family get further in life, as it will allow my husband to commute to work and help our daughter get to all of her needed doctors appointments,” Desire said as the car was unveiled. “This will really give us the opportunity to advance our family.”
Second Chance Cars has delivered about 100 cars so far. Executive Director Dan Holin said the award to Desire and her family was one of the most meaningful.
“This family has been under so much pressure dealing with housing insecurity and a daughter with complex, dangerous illnesses. It has to be so hard,” Holin said. “This is the whole reason Second Chance Cars exists. This provides economic empowerment to a veteran by providing access to affordable transportation.”
Desire said the award from Second Chance Cars came just after her family participated in Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, working to raise awareness of the condition that affects 1 in 100 children, and is a leading cause of birth defect-related deaths.
“We also want to say how grateful we are for this opportunity for our family,” Desire said. “Our daughter can’t believe we have a car that’s ours and keeps asking when we have to give it back. I’m so thrilled to be able to tell her that its ours for keeps. She is still trying to understand it and figure out what stickers she would like to decorate it with. This is such a much needed blessing!
School Committee member Marilyn Fitzgerald, of Andover, attended the presentation because she was moved by a previous donation made in collaboration with Second Chance Cars.
“It is such a great program watching these families in need be able to have something that will help better their lives, and the kids are also impacted by doing a program like this,” Fitzgerald said. “Not everyone gets the opportunity to do this and be a part of something so special. One of the students who worked on the car actually asked if more schools could do this, and that was just so special to me because it shows how much this means to the students that they get to do this for others. I hope this program will continue to do so for years into the future.”
Superintendent Lavoie praised the program, and thanked all involved. Automotive Instructors Manuel Malave and Mike Ouellette oversaw the refurbishing.
“Programs that provide an opportunity to give back to people in need as well as provide opportunities to gain skills in these aspects of life for our students are really incredible,” said Superintendent Lavoie. “I am grateful for this partnership and to be able to provide a veteran with a car to help them back to the mainstream of society with this opportunity.”
Second Chance Cars is able to operate thanks to the donations of gently used vehicles from the public. To learn more about the nonprofit and the vehicle donation process, visit www.secondchancecars.org.
To learn more about Congenital Heart Defects, visit: https://www.mlhboston.org/.