Southland International Trucks Ltd. and Lethbridge Collegiate Institute Build Partnership
By Garrett Simmons
Lethbridge School District No. 51
As a student at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute, George Kirkham spent a lot of time inside the school’s shop.
Wednesday afternoon, Kirkham and another former LCI student, Rob Mitchell, were back at the school to announce a $15,000 donation to the school’s automotive and autobody program.
“I just think back to how much time I spent in here as a kid in high school, and it feels pretty good to be able to give back.”
Kirkham has owned Southland International since 1985, while Mitchell serves as the company’s service manager. The pair of former LCI students thought the time was right to contribute to the programs at the school, and have already spent $5,000 on a wide range of tools. Those tools include jacks and jackstands, hand wrenches, air hoses, specialty equipment and cabinets for storage. Plans are in the works for how the other $10,000 will be utilized.
“With tools comes opportunity,” said Lance Rosen, automotive teacher at LCI. “If there’s not the tools, the kids can’t do what you ask of them.”
Rosen added students will be taught about the responsible use of the new equipment, and how to properly inventory the tools.
“It’s going to be a good opportunity for them, and it will help build some pride into what they are doing with this new stuff. It’s an adrenaline shot to the program, because we have the ability to do things we weren’t able to do before.”
Kirkham added the donation is not only about giving back to his former school, but also ensuring today’s generation of students can experience what the automotive trades have to offer.
“The Rob Mitchells and George Kirkhams of today aren’t getting the same advantages as we did as kids,” said Kirkham, who added the trades are an educational necessity in his mind. “We want the kids today to have the opportunities we had. Just think of how many people in the automotive industry in Lethbridge today came through these high school shops. The stuff I learned in here is stuff I still use today, both in my business and also with my hobbies.”
Mitchell agreed, and added as a young student, he had no experience in automotives until he entered the shop at LCI.
“I enjoyed the aspect of automotives and I was encouraged to try all of the different disciplines,” he said of his time at LCI. “Without this place, I would have never gone in this direction as a career.”
Kirkham and Mitchell helped pick up the first $5,000 worth of tools at Canadian Tire South and Princess Auto, and hope to work with LCI to find the best use of the last $10,000.