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Piston Awards 23 Scholarships to Aspiring Auto Restoration Technicians

The Piston Foundation is proud to announce our 2023 scholarship awards. Scholarships totalling $105,000 have been awarded to 23 deserving students who are training for careers in automotive restoration, collection management, and vintage motorsports.

Each of our 2023 Piston Scholars has a passion for classic cars and the drive to become a skilled technician. The Foundation, with the support of our donors, is helping these young people get the education they need to start a career in the collector car industry.

By Jeff Mason

August 23, 2023

Increasing Our Impact

2023 is the second year the Foundation has awarded scholarships. In 2022, we supported 10 Piston Scholars. This year, we’ve more than doubled our number of scholarships to 23 and increased our total awards from $42,500 to $105,000.

As our founder has said, “The Piston Foundation is still brand new, but we’re not wasting any time. We’re proud to support these deserving students on behalf of our donors.”

Across industries, there is growing interest in skilled trades and as an advocate for these careers, Piston is tapping into this growth. Interest in collector car restoration careers is growing too. Our 2023 Piston Scholars are proof. 

“The high cost of technical education keeps people from pursuing these skilled trade careers. Together, the Foundation and our donors are removing that barrier.”

– Robert Minnick, Founder, CEO

This year, we saw a significant increase in the quantity and variety of scholarship applications. Our 23 scholarship recipients were chosen from among 130 applicants, from 37 states, attending 27 different schools. 

With continued development of our career path programs and support from the car community, the Foundation can push these numbers much higher, reach more young car enthusiasts, and show them a path to a rewarding automotive career.

Piston Scholars Say Thank You!

Several of our 2023 scholarship recipients took time to say thanks to the donors who make our scholarships possible. 

Funding Education With Car Donations

Our 2023 scholarships were funded by our Cars For Piston Scholars campaign, which converts collector car donations into education and training for the next generation. The campaign began in March with the celebration of Bring-a-Trailer’s 100,000th auction listing and the sale of their own beloved “Gimlet Z”, a 1973 Datsun 240Z in lime-yellow. 

Bring-a-Trailer donated 100% of the auction proceeds to our scholarship fund. As did our second car donor, Adam’s Polishes, with the sale of their 1960 Willys Wagon. Additional scholarship funding came from individual donors and the Cavallino Foundation.

“It’s a direct path from car donations to scholarships. Collectors can give back to the community they love through Cars For Piston Scholars and know their donation will directly support education for future technicians,” said Piston founder Robert Minnick.  

Piston Scholars receive scholarship awards of up to $5,000 per school year to help pay tuition at the automotive school of their choice. This can be any accredited 2- or 4-year institution. Minnick said, “The high cost of technical education keeps people from pursuing these skilled trade careers. Together, the Foundation and our donors are removing that barrier.”

Building a Career Path

“Our 2023 Piston Scholars are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Piston COO Jeff Mason. “There are many more young people who would thrive in these careers, but they don’t see a path that will get them there.”

A lack of awareness, the high cost of technical education, and the lack of hands-on training has created a shortage of collector car technicians. The Piston Foundation is creating a career path that removes these barriers and helps more people get started in the trades of the collector car industry. 

“The Piston Foundation is a public charity that works for the car enthusiast community,” says Mason. “We welcome the support of individuals, foundations, and the industry.”

Meet Our 2023 Piston Scholars

Lindzie Archer

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

Lindzie is excited and determined to make a name for herself in the automotive industry. From a young age, she learned how to change car oil, check tire pressures, and properly maintain a vehicle. Her favorite thing about working with classic cars is the joy she sees in people when they come across a familiar car that reminds them of a cherished memory. While she knows she still has plenty to learn from her studies, she is eager for what’s in store in her second year at McPherson. The cars make it all worthwhile!

Nigel Bannister

University of Northwestern Ohio, Auto Restoration

A newly converted car guy, Nigel never had much of an interest in cars growing up, but when he stumbled across an old 1987 Chevrolet Corvette for sale, it was love at first sight. Spending months in his garage repairing the car and its engine only further bolstered his passion. After college, he hopes to pursue his dreams of opening up a shop so he can work on all kinds of cool vehicles and builds.

Lucas Beasley

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

Lucas believes that when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. He found his love for cars at 13 when his father took him to the C.A.R.S. Club car show. A few years later, he bought his first car, a 1969 F250, and spent his whole summer honing his craft while he tuned it up. Now studying at McPherson, he gets to spend his time with classic cars and solving mechanical problems. It’s a dream come true for Lucas.

Edwin Buiter

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

One of the 10 inaugural Piston Scholars of 2022, Edwin returns with a year of academic experience under his belt and an eagerness to learn even more. The 19-year-old McPherson student has owned 12 vehicles thus far, which he’s restored and subsequently sold in order to make way for the next big project. Edwin loves the history of cars and makes sure all his restorations are as authentic to the original as possible; just the way he likes it.

Zoe Carmichael

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

Zoe is proud to have been a 2022 Piston Scholar and prouder still to receive the honor again for 2023. She’s currently making the most of her education through her job at the Garage Auto Museum in Salina, Kansas, her current summer internship at the McPherson Library’s Paul Russell Center for Automotive Research, and her involvement in several Piston-related events such as the 2023 Cavallino Concours. She’s a real history buff to boot, aiming to attain her bachelor’s degree in Historic Automotive Restoration in 2024.

Joe Estevez

Palm Beach State College, Automotive Technology

Joe’s father was a huge influence in his love for cars and all things motorsports, laying the foundation for his entrance into the automotive world. A self-taught Fusion 360 user, Joe learned to use the design program so he could create and test his ideas for all the coolest race car designs. Having worked hard to earn money for college, he is especially grateful to have received a Piston Scholarship to help make his dreams come true.

Jasper Fedders

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

Jasper came across his dad’s 1998 Dodge Ram 1500 one day, sitting idle out on their farm. The truck held a lot of sentimental value, having been what his dad drove in when he first met his mom, and it looked like it’d be worth driving to school, so why not try and fix it? Since then, he’s been hooked on car restoration, first learning from videos on Youtube, until making the leap to college thanks to his mother’s urging. Jasper’s 2022 Piston Scholarship helped a great deal last year so receiving another in 2023 is a big reassurance as he enters his senior year.

Connor Hecei

Pennsylvania College of Technology, Auto Restoration

Thanks to his family’s Ford dealership, Connor had an up close and personal relationship with cars since his early years. He can recall peering into the shop as a kid, mesmerized by each car’s complexity, and knowing one day, he’d want to work with them too. He now works in his family’s dealership as an apprentice mechanic and hopes to one day have a mechanic shop of his own. Until then, he plans to learn all he can of his craft while pursuing a degree in Automotive Technology Management at Pennsylvania Tech.

Ethan Heck

Lanier Technical College, Motorsports Vehicle Technology

Ethan has accomplished quite a lot since first becoming a Piston Scholar in 2022 and beginning his studies at Lanier Technical College. With his main focus directed toward motorsports, he has enrolled in courses such as Fabrication, Welding, and his personal favorite, Race Car Prep and Testing. Making the jump from high school to college last year was a huge step for Ethan and required much in the way of finances, but thankfully, his Piston Scholarship paved the way for an excellent year of studies. With two more terms left to go, Ethan can rest easy knowing his newest scholarship is there to guide him to the finish line.

Adam Hughes

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

The thought of one day fixing a car was always an exciting one for Adam, but it wasn’t until the day he bought his 1955 Chevy that his passion truly came to life. Through many subsequent experiences, he realized the appeal of classic cars comes from a shared love for the art, history and culture; the very thing that drew him to automotive restoration in the first place. With his mind made up, he enrolled in McPherson’s automotive restoration program to pursue his lifelong dream. Now, his senior year is fast approaching and he’s looking forward to enjoying every minute of it.

Kody Kuss

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

For years, Kody wished for a classic car he could restore. That wish finally came true when his parents got him a 1976 Chevy Impala, and in no time, he learned how to change the oil, fix the exhaust leak, and rework the headlight, taillight, and sound systems. Kody first discovered his affinity for hands-on learning when taking photography and drawing classes where he had the chance to flex his creative muscles and “outside the box” thinking. He hopes to apply this creativity to cars as he continues to gain more mechanical experience at McPherson.

Carlos Leandry

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

Growing up in Puerto Rico had its benefits, but if there was one thing Carlos wished the island had, it was access to older cars or a chance to learn about them. His whole world had revolved around cars since he was young and getting to pursue a career in classic car restoration would be a dream come true; if only he could find a way to gain the proper education. One serendipitous encounter with a Jay Leno YouTube video gave him just that when it mentioned the automotive program at McPherson College. While it took some work and more than a couple sacrifices, Carlos found his way to McPherson and is now pursuing a degree in Automotive Restoration and Business Management.

Dryden Powell

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

An up-and-coming college senior and returning Piston Scholar, Dryden wants to make the most of his final year before setting out to find the collector car job of his dreams. He’s always loved the outdoors and heeded the call for adventure countless times as a Boy Scout, learning firsthand that good results come from putting in the time and effort. From now until his eventual graduation day, Dryden is eager to apply all he’s learned to his studies so he can become the best at what he loves.

Alexander Riddle

Pennsylvania College of Technology, Auto Restoration

Alexander is a real sucker for old cars, having longed to work with them ever since a chance encounter in the parking lot while shopping with his parents. High school gave him the chance to restore all kinds of antique cars alongside his peers and helped him to form a strong sense of community. Now serving as the VP of the Penn College Motorsport Association, Alexander couldn’t be happier with the experiences he’s had so far. He looks forward to having even more unforgettable automotive experiences as he starts his junior year.

Philip Schieffelin

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

Phillip used to ask himself the same question most teenagers do: What do I want to do with my life? He found that answer after buying a 1963 Chevrolet C10. Getting to explore and understand the inner workings of a car made so much sense to him and the thrill of getting to ride in something he’d fixed was just the icing on the cake. Phillip comes from a very large family of thirteen children, so when it came to attending McPherson, he knew he was going to need some outside help. He is extremely grateful to have received a Piston Scholarship so he can pursue the life he knows he wants to have.

Robert Schonberner

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

Robert believes every classic car has a story to tell, be it through representing a particular era, a manufacturer’s vision, or a milestone in automotive history. No matter the angle, Robert wants to preserve these classics and make their stories known. McPherson College has been a great place for him to hone his skills and find others who share his passion. To sum it up in his own words, “I’ve turned wrenches on cars I thought I’d never touch and met people who inspired me to do better. The sense of friendship, mutual respect, and the exchange of knowledge within this community is priceless.”

Riley Sojka

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

Despite growing up in a city known for its classic cars, Riley didn’t know how much they’d inspire him until he went to a car show and experienced all the variety the automotive world has to offer. Tinkering with the family cars and his friend’s Mazda Protégé further proved to him that an automotive career would suit him well. Upon first visiting McPherson College for a tour, he felt as if he’d come home and from that moment on, there was no turning back. He has learned more in his first two years than he ever could have on his own and is so happy to have found a career path for the coolest things on four wheels.

Blake Swingle

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

Straight out of high school, Blake made it his mission to become a welding wiz, completing a 10-month program with five certifications and an eagerness to get his hands dirty in a brand-new job. After four years of work, Blake began feeling that itch to pursue a more fulfilling career, realizing his true passions lay with photography and cars. His first year at McPherson has been one of his best, leading to a blossoming hobby in reading, an appreciation for automotive history, and an awesome internship. He hopes to one day combine his love for automobiles and photography, working to preserve old photos of cars as well as their real-life counterparts.

Elias Vasquez

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

For someone who loves reading and absorbing knowledge as much as Elias does, the journey is just as important as the destination. When it comes to classic cars, Elias finds there is always something new to learn or appreciate, particularly in the field of restoration. Breathing new life into an old vehicle is such a beautiful thing to him and he finds the most enjoyment is found, not in discerning which method is better than another, but rather by learning from and appreciating the unique aspects of every practice. The field of automotive engineering and restoration is a dynamic and ever-changing one and Elias could not want anything more than to be a part of it.

Sean Whetstone

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

As a 2022 Piston Scholar, Sean has spent time working closely with Piston members at events such as this year’s Cavallino Classic, gaining a new facet of appreciation for the Foundation’s mission. Sean finds it difficult to put into words how or why he’s chosen to dedicate his life to classic car restoration, but it might have to do with the fact that he never consciously made any such choice. Cars have always been a fundamental part of his life and he simply can’t imagine a world in which they aren’t. With another scholarship year ahead, he hopes to keep up the pace, doing anything and everything he can if it means getting to play with some good old classic cars.

Samuel White

McPherson College, Auto Restoration

Just like a photograph, Samuel wants to keep classic automobiles preserved in their own bubble of time as the world of collector cars fuels his passion for the research and preservation of these historic works of art. Through his love of photography, he has found great success in taking auction photos, establishing his own business and partnering with big auction groups like Bring a trailer and the MBMarket. As luck would have it, his involvement with Bring a Trailer led to his discovery and subsequent receival of the Piston Scholarship. With this new form of support, Samuel feels ready to continue his preservation efforts and leave a lasting impact on collector cars, everywhere.

Zachary Wiernusz

Pennsylvania College of Technology, Auto Restoration

Car mechanics have been a big part of Zachary’s family going back as far as his great-grandfather’s days as a local Chevy dealer. Zachary wants to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and learn all he can about becoming a great mechanic. As such, his parents have sacrificed much for their son to be able to attend college, but their recent physical disabilities have put a hard financial strain on things. Becoming a 2023 Scholar has eased a large burden off of Zachary and his parents’ shoulders, ensuring he can continue the great family legacy, free of worry.

Jace Willard

Indian River State College, Welding Technology

18-year-old Jace has always loved building and repairing cars thanks to the influence of his grandfather, who instilled in him the desire to tinker. Two years ago, Jace took a job at a local car shop, and since then, has felt compelled to become a master welder and fabricator. Now pursuing his degree at the Welding School of Florida, he aims to do his best and make his parents proud.

Support skilled trade education for future auto restoration technicians.


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