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Annual Jim Moran Classic Helps Build Bright Futures for Students at the Youth Automotive Training Center

Uron Wilson was only 15 years old when a violent and abusive home life forced him to live on the streets and fend for himself to survive. On his own with no support system, Wilson was unsure of where to go next. It wasn’t until he encountered the Youth Automotive Training Center (YATC) in 1994 — after being referred by a Broward County judge — that he realized he could have a better and more hopeful future.

Wilson remembers how skeptical he was at first of the YATC instructors and staff who wanted to help him get clothing, food and an apartment, and expressed genuine concern for his welfare.

“The people at YATC showed me a different way of living in the world — a way to live without violence,” Wilson said to 800 supporters at the 2013 Jim Moran Classic, held at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando. “I couldn’t imagine people doing this much for others and not asking for something in return. Their kindness helped steer me in the right direction.”

Breaking away from the negative influences in his life proved challenging for Wilson and he had multiple bouts of trouble, ending up in jail even after graduating from YATC in 1995. However, with the steadfast and unwavering support of the YATC community, Wilson has operated his own automotive repair shop for five years while also raising four children.

Established by automotive legend and JM Family Enterprises founder Jim Moran in 1984, the mission of the Youth Automotive Training Center is to train and educate at-risk youth in basic automotive repair, academic remediation, job readiness and life management skills. The goal of the program is to prepare young adults who are at a disadvantage in their lives to become self-sufficient, productive, law-abiding citizens. Students are referred to YATC in a variety of ways, including through the Departments of Juvenile Justice and Children and Families, as well as YATC graduates, local clergy and word of mouth.

At the annual two-day golf and tennis tournament and banquet, which raises enough funds to cover the yearly operating expenses of the program, current YATC student Connor Doyle joined Wilson as a guest speaker.

Doyle is no stranger to the court system either, having been in and out of trouble since sixth grade for criminal charges ranging from drug possession to forgery. At 15, he was sentenced to a substance abuse rehabilitation program and subsequently spent time in several juvenile detention facilities.

In July 2012, Doyle received a one-year jail sentence. The judge handed him a YATC brochure and told him to look into it when he was released. He didn’t hesitate and before his sentence was over, Doyle had already written to YATC pleading his case, completed the application and interview process, and started what he called “the beginning of my new lease on life.”

Doyle, now 20, has set some positive goals for his future, which include remaining drug free, attending school every day and expanding his automotive skills.

“I really appreciate and am grateful for the opportunity I am receiving here at YATC,” Doyle said. “Nobody is judging me and I can’t fail. I have everyone’s support. To a guy like me, that puts me ahead of the game.”

Since opening its doors, YATC has evolved from a one-room training center in Hollywood, Fla., to a 16,000 square-foot facility in Deerfield Beach featuring technical and academic classrooms, a computer learning center/library, state-of-the-art automotive shop, conference room and fitness area.

“My husband started YATC to give second chances to at-risk young adults who needed encouragement and a caring support system to turn their lives around,” said Jan Moran. “He would be very proud that the school continues providing its students and graduates with a strong academic and technical foundation, plus valuable life skills to help them achieve their goals.” 

Of the nearly 600 students who have completed the program, 141 have received their GEDs. Last year’s class set a record when 14 of the students earned their GEDs. More than 90 percent of graduates are gainfully employed, furthering their education or serving in the armed forces. Thirty-two graduates hold Auto Service Excellence certification qualifying them as Certified Technicians, while 40 graduates on scholarship through YATC have earned or are pursuing an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. Alumni of the model program, along with their families, continue to receive assistance to keep them on the right track for success.

“YATC has had an incredible impact on so many young people and their families since Jim Moran established the program nearly three decades ago,” said Terry Routley, executive director of YATC. “Thanks to his vision and the support of our generous sponsors and friends in the community, we will continue preparing disadvantaged kids for a better future.”

Among the 300 individuals and corporations who supported the Jim Moran Classic were Founding Sponsor The Cross Country Group, and Super Big Heart Sponsors Auto Carrier Express, Inc. and Jan Moran. Big Heart Sponsors included: 22squared; AT&T; Centurion Auto Logistics, Inc.; EMC Corporation; O’Brien Automotive Team; Bruce Rossmeyer’s Daytona Harley-Davidson / Daytona Toyota; TBC Corporation (Tire Kingdom); and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. Grand Sponsors included: 3Cinteractive and Southern United Group / Evoke Chemical / Evoke Automotive.

Throughout the weekend, guests participated in golf and tennis events alongside more than 50 professional golf, baseball, football, track and tennis celebrities including: Joe Montana, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Jason Taylor, Andre Dawson, Anthony Muñoz and Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Additionally, NFL alumnus and head golf coach at Jackson State University Eddie Payton and his wife, Rica, visited YATC after the Jim Moran Classic to tour the school and speak with students.

Jump Start Golf, a special event held on Friday for the Super Big Heart, Big Heart and Grand Sponsors, gave more than 100 golfers the opportunity to participate in a round of golf with celebrity guests. During Saturday’s tournaments, more than 300 golfers and more than 30 tennis players participated in the programs. World Golf Hall of Famer Chi Chi Rodriguez and golf pro Mark Pfeil conducted the golf clinic, while the tennis clinic and tournament were led by Hall of Famers Wendy Turnbull and Virginia Wade and tennis pros John Lloyd and Duby Petrovich.

Young guests participated in a special Ecological Entertainment-themed Kids & Teens Program, which included day and evening activities.

JM Family Enterprises and Southeast Toyota Distributors donated a 2014 Toyota Corolla for the raffle prize, which was presented to Debra Riley, a JM Family associate from St. Louis. The Silent Auction featured a painting created and donated by James Gibson, an original Florida Highwaymen artist, as well as a Lexus hood autographed by members of the Miami Dolphins 1972 Perfect Season Team and donated by JM Lexus.

Also auctioned was a 2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited FLHTK motorcycle donated by Bruce Rossmeyer’s Daytona Harley-Davidson. Proceeds from the motorcycle auction will go to the Bruce Rossmeyer Memorial Kick Start Scholarship Fund at YATC to assist graduates who want to pursue their education at a vocational or technical school. In addition, the auction featured sports memorabilia and autographed collectibles organized by Fanatics Mounted Memories.

For more information about the Youth Automotive Training Center, call 954-428-0909 or visit www.yatc.org. YATC is located at 399 S.W. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. in Deerfield Beach.

Download photos from the 2013 annual Jim Moran Classic