School's not such a DRAGG
After-school program puts kids in the shop and off the streets
By Chris O'Neal 11/14/2013
While some after-school programs aim to keep kids off the streets, the Drag Racing Against Gangs and Graffiti (DRAGG) team is putting them in the driver’s seat. At the shop located in Oxnard, at-risk youth help craft the next generation of super-powered sports cars, all in the name of furthering their education and careers while keeping them safe.
Sergeants Charles Woodruff and Daniel Shrubb of the Oxnard Police Department decided in 2008 to put the pedal to the metal on the idea for DRAGG, the first of its kind in Ventura County, a program somewhat similar to a Boys & Girls Club only with a focus on auto mechanics.
“Instead of hanging out with people they shouldn’t be, they come to our facility and we get them exposed to the motor industry,” said Woodruff.
The students, ranging in age from 16 to 18, are taught the basics of auto mechanics with a twist. Unlike typical shop classes, students have three hours to work and customize a vehicle using practical hands-on experience.
“The teacher will hand-pick kids who might have problems at home,” said Woodruff. “We know some of these kids are at-risk, meaning if they’re not with the right people, they will make bad decisions.”
One child in particular, who became a star student of the DRAGG program at one point, had run afoul of the law after being charged with vandalism. After joining the program, the student excelled.
“He got caught up in graffiti, arrested and cited,” said Woodruff. “He stayed in our program through the entire school year and ended being one of our top kids.”
When he graduated, the student was given a scholarship that eventually led to a job at a local auto-body shop. Since graduating, he visits every once in a while when he’s on break from college.
“That’s something that, when we talk about what we’re doing in the future, we want every kid to be like that,” said Woodruff.
The DRAGG program has graduated 24 students, 12 of whom received scholarships for further education. DRAGG is an accredited nonprofit organization, giving the students who graduate from the program points toward graduation at their local high schools.
But it isn’t just academic attention the program is garnering.
The first vehicle customized for the program, a 2006 Mustang GT, was supercharged with a V-2 Vortech Supercharger and a full lights-and-sirens package to complete the look. Coming in at a whopping 500 horsepower, the car was showcased at the 2011 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) auto show in Las Vegas.
Earlier this month, Woodruff, Shrubb and DRAGG Lead Instructor Darell Cleveland unveiled the program’s next vehicle at the Ford SEMA booth: a unique rally-themed 2013 Ford Focus ST, a vehicle the program received for just one dollar.
Shrubb hopes that DRAGG continues to grow, inspiring students to turn to the ratchet instead of delving into the nuts and bolts of street crime.
“At the end of the school year when we’re handing out scholarships and job opportunities, that’s huge to me,” said Shrubb. “The parents sitting there with a tear in their eye thinking, ‘Wow! my kid is doing something.’ That’s the satisfaction that we get out of doing this.”
For more information on DRAGG and to see the customized Ford Focus ST, visit www.draggteam.com.