Kai Thomas takes the next step into his career


Hannah Rouse

Kai Thomas (12) took the opportunity from MSHS to begin a concurrent enrollment program through Pikes Peak State College to begin his next steps in becoming a mechanic.

Morgan Flannery, Senior Reporter

Senior, Kai Thomas, has the opportunity to learn about vehicle mechanics and work with cars as a part of his class schedule. He is enrolled in Manitou Springs High School’s Career Start program, giving him the chance to get his foot in the door of job opportunities straight out of high school. 

Thomas has had an interest in vehicles throughout his childhood, making the class a great fit for his interests that the typical school day does not include. “When he was little, we always had cars,” said Hannah Rouse, Thomas’s mom. “We used to have this box of super old cars that were given down to us by his grandma and Kai was always interested in how they worked.”

Sports cars and mechanics are a popular interest among MSHS students. “One of my best friends since the seventh grade really liked cars, and he got me into them,” said Thomas. He finds a common ground with many of his friends through his deep interest in cars and has also met new friends through Career Start. 

Thomas attends the classes during the first two blocks of the school day at Pikes Peak State College. The program allows him to develop his skills with vehicles and work hands-on with projects, something he has been interested in for years. “Around about 3rd or 4th grade Kai started playing around with lawn mowers and other electronics. He would start taking them apart and playing with them,” Rouse said. 

Thomas’s class offers hands-on learning. “They give you an example of a part, and then they have a bunch of broken-down cars. So, you go into this garage, and you find that part, take it off, inspect it, then you put it back,” Thomas said. His class had different units on brakes, transmissions, and it even had an electric car come in that he got to work with. 

“I heard about the opportunity from a sign in the hallway,” Thomas said. He is planning on going into the automotive field after high school, and Career Start is a way to gain experience and learn the basics in a college environment. 

The Career Start program is geared towards students wanting to go straight into the workforce after graduating. Alisha Strupp, a MSHS counselor who promotes and works closely with Career Start said, “I love Career Start so much, because I think it really gives kids an opportunity who don’t fit the traditional goal of wanting to go to a four-year college.” 

They offer 16 different programs, including Automotive Collision, Diesel Power Mechanics, Welding and Firefighting.

MSHS covers all costs for the program, while also providing transportation to and from Pikes Peak State College, although Thomas prefers to drive himself. Career Start has students from other surrounding high schools, spanning from Cripple Creek High School to Cheyenne Mountain High School. 

Career Start’s vehicle program has been motivating for Thomas, as it is a topic that he’s passionate about and can actually see himself doing as an adult. It gives him the chance to meet new people interested in the same things he is, creating an environment he collaborates in, while completing engaging projects. “He does love his classes. He gets excited. He likes that he’s learning about things he can use for his career, and he gets to be more hands on,” Rouse said.