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West Valley City Journal

Hunter Senior Receives New Car After Other Catches Fire

Jul 15, 2016 09:38AM ● By Bryan Scott

Alek Arpero stands next to Principal Craig Stauffer and Debbe Jones in Arpero’s shop class after being given the keys and car title to a ’97 Pontiac Sunfire. —Eric Bailey

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

Phoenixes are born out of fire. For Alek Arpero, a Sunfire was born out of his own fire.

Alek Arpero, a senior at Hunter High School, received a ’97 Pontiac Sunfire as part of the No Dreams Deferred Scholarship offered at the school after his own car caught on fire in April.

The No Dreams Deferred Scholarship was created by Debbe Jones, an English teacher at Hunter, as a nonprofit foundation to help students achieve their dreams.

“I have so much and so many students have so little,” Jones said.

“It’s great that [Hunter] has [the scholarship] because it really helps a lot,” Arpero said.

No Dreams Deferred started five years ago where it helps a student each year who is not eligible for grants, scholarships or student loans involving state or federal monies. Since its inception, over $6,000 has been awarded to the winners of the scholarship.

Principal Craig Stauffer, along with Jones, surprised Arpero during his shop class with keys and a car title.

“I was kinda shocked, like I was really at a loss for words,” Arpero said. “And I listen to the radio and when people win concert tickets or something they’re like ‘oh yeah cool,’ I’m thinking ‘how could you be like that? You just won something, shouldn’t you be like really excited.’ Now that it happened to me, I was really just stunned.”

The next step was for Arpero to learn how to drive a manual consistently for the first time in his life

Arpero’s need for a new vehicle transpired on a sunny afternoon on April 27.

Arpero’s dad owned a ’79 Monte Carlo that wasn’t being used. They did a tune up and fixed the tires but Arpero soon discovered the carburetor needed to be replaced and with the help of his shop classmates, replaced everything he thought needed to be resolved.

While Arpero was driving, he said he heard a noise like when a fire is lit then saw smoke coming out of the hood.

“I thought ‘oh, maybe it overheated,’ but when I went to go pop my hood I saw black smoke pouring out and I knew it was on fire,” Arpero said.

Arpero said his friends, who he had just passed on the street, could see fireballs spitting out of his car.

“It was a tragic thing…it melted through the original windshield and the original dash so it kinda messed up some of the interior,” Arpero said.

The replacement, a Pontiac Sunfire, came from Jones’ brother Robert Hall, or Uncle Bob, as he was known to the kids. The car served as a huge stress reliever for Arpero and his family.

“Everything at my house was stressful, I was gonna pick up more hours, my mom was gonna find another job so it was mainly a relief,” Arpero said.

Jones said it was difficult to describe the satisfaction she feels when the scholarship fund she created does wonders for students.

“It’s beyond words, it’s just humbling,” Jones said.

But it’s not that special, Jones said, to have educators put together funds like No Dreams Deferred.

“This isn’t that unusual, it would be unusual if teachers didn’t care about their students,” Jones said.

It was unusual for Arpero to receive a car title during school from his principal, but appropriate considering his passion for cars.

Arpero, who intends to donate to the school’s automotive program in the future, plans to go to Utah Valley University this fall while continuing towards a career in auto motives.