Norwich Tech senior ready to motor to success

Jarrett Leonard, who graduates from Norwich Technical High School's automotive technology program next month, says he started learning his trade as a young boy, when he tagged along with his mechanic father to help fix neighbors' cars.

He also went boating with his father, Chuck Leonard, since he was small, and said he loves being on the water. Boats require a lot of maintenance, so Leonard learned about marine mechanics.

The 18-year-old Montville resident eventually plans to find work in the marine mechanic industry, preferably in a warmer climate. He wants to get his captain's license, too. But first, Leonard said, he would likely be attending the New England Institute of Technology to continue his education in marine mechanics.

Leonard enrolled in Norwich Tech's automotive program two years ago after attending Montville High School for his freshman and sophomore years. He worked at Thayer's Marine in Norwich under the school's work-based learning program and learned how to transfer what he knew about automotive mechanics to the marine industry. His father always told him that good auto mechanics are hard to find, and good boat mechanics are even harder to find.

"I wanted to get myself into a position where I graduated from high school and could get a job," he said during an interview Wednesday in the school's auto shop.

As far as Richie Thayer, business manager of Thayer's Marine, is concerned, Leonard has a job for as long as he wants at the family-owned boat dealership.

"He's a great kid. A very hard worker," Thayer said in a phone interview. "He does whatever he's asked. He's fairly adept compared to the other young people we've brought in here."

Though his mechanical skills exceed his academic abilities, Leonard has obtained certification in at least eight areas from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and could immediately begin working at a garage.

"He has a natural ability to work on vehicles or boats," said Peter Fiasconaro, head instructor for Norwich Tech's automotive department. "His work ethic is unbelievable, and he has a high interest in learning the connection between the marine industry and the auto industry."

His teachers say Leonard is sometimes a step ahead of them in the auto shop, such as during a recent discussion about differentials in cars. The instructors say they always enjoy hearing about their students' successes in the employment world and are confident Leonard will do well. His skills will enable him to find work in any number of marine settings, such as commercial fishing or even cruise ships.

"I'm always telling him, you're going to invite me to the Caribbean," automotive instructor Daniel Adams said.

Leonard, who lives with his father, Chuck, mother, Mindy, brother, Toby, and sister, Hayley, said he drives a 1987 Chevy K20 with a rebuilt engine. It needs some body work, which he doesn't do at the moment but said someday he would love to learn how.

In his spare time, Leonard said he enjoys fishing and hanging out with his friends.

k.florin@theday.com 

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