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June 21, 2022

Finding Next Gen SCCA Members

Finding Next Gen SCCA Members

Getting younger generations interested in sports cars, and Sports Car Club of America, has been a topic amongst Club members since the SCCA’s creation. SCCA’s North Carolina Region (NCR) has undertaken a new, in-the-trenches effort to connect directly with high school students; one that conveys the importance of education, introduces teens to SCCA activities, and offers help for those planning to continue their education beyond high school.

Hatching the Plan

It was 2019 when John Lindquist, a Club member for almost two decades, presented NCR’s Board of Directors with the innovative Scholarship Program concept. His idea was to put sports car racing right in front of the younger generation rather than waiting for teens to randomly stumble upon road racing on TV or the internet. To accomplish this, Lindquist fashioned a plan where a racecar is trailered to a school so students can see, feel, and hear the “real thing” in person.

But Lindquist also knew calling schools at random and saying, “I want to show the kids my neat race car,” probably wasn’t going to be well received. Instead, his strategy was to fashion a message that highlighted the importance of staying in school, and advantages to continuing education after high school. Pair that with a scholarship delivering some support for those with plans to continue their education, and now you have a platform that creates an opportunity to talk about SCCA activities while offering something of value to students in local communities.

In a nutshell, that was the idea Lindquist put forth. Anna Crissman, NCR’s current Regional Executive, said $600 was then earmarked for the project to get the ball rolling. The word was also spread to Region members that help would be needed to get this program off the ground.

“The NCR Board is really gung-ho and excited to do this. It’s a pathway to get in front of an audience and really let them know what the Club is doing, and what opportunities are out there,” Crissman said. “There has been a big learning curve…and many NCR members have jumped in and done a lot to help.”

Finding More Funding

Unfortunately, COVID made it impossible in 2020 and ’21 to get in front of students at schools. But Lindquist, the NCR Scholarship Program administrator, used those two years to raise money for the scholarship fund. There have been raffles offering items graciously donated by a handful of companies, and plenty of individuals have chipped in with generous donations. Thanks to all, NCR’s Scholarship Program is now funded for the next decade, with plans to award at least one $1,000 scholarship each year. Every scholarship also comes with membership to the SCCA.

Just recently, the very first set of NCR Scholarship Program recipients were named. A panel consisting of a half-dozen NCR members selected the winners, who come from schools within the 65 counties in North Carolina – and eight counties in southern Virginia – that fall within NCR’s reach, with each honoree having to demonstrate plans for attending an accredited school after graduation. The 2022 winners are Haylie Kimball, who will attend Campbell University; Nicole Coursey, who is headed to UNC at Chapel Hill; and Yahir Ponce, who will attend Lenoir Community College.

Visiting with Students

In January 2022, schools were back in session, and Lindquist started to work on filling his presentation calendar. His skillfully crafted pitch to school administrators has been well received, and he’s now visited 14 schools and made more than 40 presentations so far – with 25 to 50 students at each session.

“I tell the kids during my presentation that I’m there to get them excited about something, anything, and maybe that will be sports car racing,” Lindquist said. “I’m very confident that we have not gone to a school yet where we have not influenced somebody’s life in a positive fashion. And that is the ultimate goal.”

Each of Lindquist’s instructional sessions include a 45-minute slide presentation, followed by 15 minutes standing alongside a real SCCA race car. In most cases, it is Lindquist’s very own Prototype 1 machine. Part of that show involves cranking up the car’s 1,200 Kawasaki engine, which never fails to ratchet up the excitement.

Right now, Lindquist is doing all the presentations himself. In some cases, that has meant loading up his racecar and making a nearly nine-hour roundtrip to and from a school. His wife Annie, who is also an NCR member, has been instrumental in helping with that effort. For the coming year, Lindquist has three or four other NCR members with racecars scattered around the state who are being coached on the in-person presentation, which means the outreach plan can be expanded for the future.

Advice for SCCA Regions

Lindquist has some advice for other SCCA Regions interested in building a similar program. The whole process can be complicated as far as executing correctly, legally, and aboveboard. Learning how to effectively communicate to school administrators, or pulling off an exciting presentation to students, also takes work. However, Lindquist is happy to share what he has learned. Just drop him a note at Johndeelindquist@hotmail.com, and he’ll get back to you with some pointers.

Photo courtesy of John Lindquist

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