Mentorship through mechanics



Local auto shop partners with WorkSource DeKalb



Initially, Carl Pierre-Louis—store manager of Precision Auto Care in Tucker— thought his partnership with WorkSource DeKalb would be an opportunity to get free labor. WorkSource DeKalb would pay youth who entered its program and in turn, Precision Auto Care would get a young, trainable workforce for roughly four to five months at a time.

However, Pierre-Louis said after getting to know some of the young men in the program, he realized he had the ability to help others.

“Once I got into it and started meeting the kids, I sort of realized it’s about more than just free labor. It’s like a youth outreach program,” Pierre-Louis said. “A lot of these kids don’t have parent figures in the house. When they get to me, I try to help them and just talk to them.”

WorkSource DeKalb’s youth program is focused on low-income residents in DeKalb County between the ages of 14 and 24. The program serves as a paid internship opportunity.

Pierre-Louis, manager of Precision Auto Care for the past five years, said he worked with several youth through WorkSource DeKalb.

“I just want to make sure some of these kids have a positive outlook on life. I want to help guide them in certain situations,” Pierre-Louis said. “I want to let them know that it’s not all about the streets. There’s another way to make money besides hanging out in the streets.”

Pierre-Louis’ lastest mentee has been a star pupil, he said. Brandon Cooper, 20, said he came into the shop through WorkSource DeKalb and didn’t know anything about cars.

Cooper started slow, but after working in the shop for a few weeks he said he might want to invest in an auto shop of his own one day.

“It’s great work experience. I learned a lot. When I first started I didn’t know how to do oil changes or fix engines. I didn’t know how to do any of that,” Cooper said, laughing. “I know how to do all of that now and I can do it without asking questions.”

Cooper said working at the auto shop transformed his life. Cooper admitted that he was always in trouble at school and was hanging out with the wrong crowd before entering the program.

“Everyone at the shop is like my big brother,” Cooper said. “I’m starting off young and now I’m up. I might be able to make a career out of this. I’m thinking about owning my own shop.”

Cooper said he’s trying to be a role model for his 18-year-old brother. Cooper started to invest in his brother’s education by giving him $100 every time his brother brought home A’s on his report card, he said. Cooper said his brother recently made the honor role.

“My mom told me she was proud of me and when I gave my brother that money she just cried,” Cooper said. “We were bad and I know she wanted us to change. She would get calls to her phone all the time, but there was nothing she could do.”

Pierre-Louis, known to Cooper as “pops,” said Cooper is a bright young man who listens well and has a lot of energy. At times when the shop is slow, Cooper stands outside and dances with his headphones on to draw in customers.

“Migos. They’re my idols,” said Cooper when asked what he listens to while he’s dancing outside the shop. “Carl hates it. I turn it all the way up.”

Recently, CEO Michael Thurmond announced that $250,000 from the county’s general fund will be reallocated to WorkSource DeKalb for a summer internship program.

The program is projected to pair 300 DeKalb youth looking for work and internship opportunities. During a press conference, Thurmond said “pimps and drug dealers” shouldn’t be the only people recruiting DeKalb’s available work force.

“When I first started, I wanted to leave early all the time.” Coooper said “I wanted to hang out with my friends. Now they call me and I have to tell them ‘I can’t hang with y’all today.’ Now I stay until the shop closes because I like it so much. It feels good. I pray so much. I’m not in trouble anymore and I try to stay around positive energy. This changed me. Where I come from, we’re known for being in the streets. Now that I have this job, you barely see me outside.”

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