Like many other educational pursuits, getting certified in the automotive trades can create significant financial hurdles for students. Luckily, the Early Ford V-8 Club has brought automotive schooling into reach by extending financial aid to Cuyamaca’s automotive students.


The club recently held their annual scholarship awards at the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park. For over 25 years, this event has granted scholarships to students who are part of the Ford ASSET Program, a two-year associate degree and certification program designed to build a clear career pathway for students and provide dealerships with highly skilled automotive service technicians.


A keystone of the ASSET Program centers on a unique and long-standing partnership with Ford to cultivate student interest and success in the automotive technology industry.


The scholarship fund was established in memory of Ollie Smith, who founded the San Diego Regional Group. Scholarship chairperson Paula Pifer has been directing the program since 1997, overseeing the distribution of more than 73 scholarships being presented to Cuyamaca students over the years.


“Once I start talking about this program, I can’t stop! There are too many great things to share” says Paula. “Nearly all the students I’ve kept in touch with over the years have continued expand their technical knowledge of applied sciences and excel in their professional life.”


Today, the program is largely spearheaded by Ignacio Castaneda Garcia, who participated in the Ford ASSET program from 2014-2021 and received the scholarship in 2016. “Early Ford V-8Club helped me purchase my first set of tools and jumpstart my career,” he says. “Now, I teach automotive courses full-time at Cuyamaca and help place students at various auto shops and dealerships.”

Ignacio notes that the best part of training students is watching them grow into master technicians. One of his apprentices even went on to become an automotive engineer for Kia.


“At the end of the day, they’re learning a trade where they can solve problems and apply the skills set they’ve acquired to everything around them, whether it’s related to hydraulics, electricity, or anything in between” Ignacio says.


This year’s scholarship award recipients include Bernardo Carbajal, Joel Escobar, Armando Espinosa, Brooks Moutaw, Eddie Reyes, Jordan Tinjaca, Joel Yap, and Paul Zatko. Each of these students has demonstrated inspiring commitment and leadership skills.

“We look forward to seeing how these scholarships will shape the futures of these remarkable students,” says Paula.