A dozen high school students will hand over keys to a car they’ve fixed up for a family in need on Saturday in Oxnard.
The moment will cap off a vehicle-heavy day that starts with a car show in Port Hueneme and a cruise through neighborhoods during which — with social distancing still a priority — residents can vote online for their favorite ride.
This year’s annual car giveaway through DRAGG, an after-school youth automotive program started by the Oxnard Police Department, has been updated with pandemic safety in mind. The car show, for example, won’t be open to the public and will be streamed online. The cruise is limited to about 65 participants who preregistered.
But other changes will bring the event closer to people who live in south Oxnard and Port Hueneme. The cruise route, which starts on Surfside Drive near the Port of Hueneme — the main sponsor — will wind through neighborhoods with cars grouped into packs of 15 or so before ending at the DRAGG facility on Graves Avenue in Oxnard, not far from the Murphy Auto Museum.
“Those neighborhoods don’t usually get the pomp and circumstance,” said Daniel Escobar, DRAGG’s program development manager, of the cruise route.
The DRAGG program launched in 2011 for Ventura County high school students, although the car giveaway is a newer element. The 2005 Toyota Matrix marks the fifth vehicle refurbished by DRAGG students for a local family in need.
Previous vehicles have been provided by a local auto dealer, but this time a Ventura resident, Marianne Caprino, donated this year’s project vehicle. She is expected to be on hand when the new owners get the keys to her old Matrix, Escobar said.
The students reviewed the dozen or so applications and decided which family will get the car. The winner will be announced around 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
“They completely overhauled this vehicle,” Escobar said. Work included changing brakes and tires, checking the electrical system, a new battery and fluids and smoothing out dents. New paint and interior detail work were done with help from local businesses Commercial Auto Body and Eight O Five Detail Shop.
Oxnard Police Chief Jason Benites and Port Hueneme Police Chief Andrew Salinas will each give a trophy for their favorite vehicle Saturday, and online votes will be tallied for neighborhood and best-in-show trophies.
Students in the Oxnard Unified High School District earn five credits for participation in the program, which is held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. High school students from other districts can take part but don’t earn class credit, Escobar said. This year’s class was smaller than usual due to the pandemic: a dozen students, three of them girls, all from OUHSD schools. Typically, 25 to 30 students take part.
Oxnard Police Sgt. Daniel Shrubb, who helped found the program and serves as executive director, said more than 700 local youths have graduated from DRAGG. Whether or not they take up automotive careers, the program can open doors and uncover natural talents and areas of interest.
The car giveaway brings things full circle, Shrubb said.
“It just connects everything,” he said. “The kids understand how to give back, and their hard work is now helping another person in need.”
Saturday’s car show will start at 10 a.m. You can stream it on Instagram Live at @draggteam or on YouTube Live at [email protected].
The cruise will start around 11:15 a.m. but will not be streamed, Escobar said. Each pack of 15 cars will be led by a DRAGG display vehicle. The first group is expected to reach the finish at Graves Avenue around 12:45 p.m., with the day wrapping up overall around 3 p.m.
Residents can vote for their favorite car at https://forms.gle/NPxvcKQGe8Bfk6Bv9.
Gretchen Wenner covers breaking news for the Ventura County Star. Reach her at [email protected] or 805-437-0270.
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