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JJC students from Homer Glen take top prizes at automotive competition

5/21/2015, 8:02 p.m.
First-place winner Tom Hahn heads to the national SkillsUSA contest in June as Illinois' representative.
Joliet Junior College student Tom Hahn (center) was the first-place winner in the Illinois Automotive SkillsUSA competition. Jake Deckinga (left) and James Gross (right) were the second- and third-place winners. Courtesy of Joliet Junior College

Joliet Junior College student Tom Hahn of Homer Glen took first place at the Illinois Automotive SkillsUSA competition this April – making this the seventh consecutive year a JJC student has won first place in the state competition.

In addition to Hahn, JJC students Jake Deckinga of Homer Glen took second place and James Gross of Frankfort Square took third.

In 2014, Hahn also received the first place medal in the state competition. He went on to the national level for SkillsUSA and achieved second place in the country. He will head to the national competition again, this time in Louisville, Kentucky, to represent both JJC and the state of Illinois June 23-26.

All three JJC students said they excelled during the competition because their automotive professors prepared them well, both in the classroom and in JJC’s automotive lab and live shop.

“Not only do we have amazing instructors but we have a great facility that has all the up-to-date technology and equipment we need to be prepared,” Hahn said. “Not a lot of facilities are large enough to have a live shop like JJC does.”

“JJC’s automotive training has been the most important thing I have done in my career,” Gross added. “The hands-on skills that I learned here, I was able to directly apply in the competition and they were crucial to reaching a spot on the podium,” Gross said.

Gross and Deckinga plan to graduate from JJC in spring 2016. Hahn graduated in May 2015. He plans to attend Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in the fall, and his goals include obtaining an internship from Toyota. Once he graduates from SIU, he wants to work with hybrids as an automotive engineer in alternative fuels.

For more information about the automotive service technology program at JJC, visit www.jjc.edu/academics/divisions/career-technical/technical/automotive-service-tech, or contact program coordinator Jim Coleman at jcolema@jjc.edu or 815-280-2576.