PHILADELPHIA – A group of Philadelphia-area students spent Friday learning about prospective career paths in racing as part of Ally’s fourth-annual Fueling Futures program.
The morning at the School of the Future started out with a panel discussion featuring former professional football player Bernard Pollard, No. 48 race engineer Chais Eliason, Hendrick Motorsports marketing representative Stephanie Morris and Urban Youth Racing School (UYRS) alumnus and NBCUniversal employee Daniel Colon.
The group of panelists shared advice with students and discussed how they came into racing, their career paths and what got them into their current positions.
"All of us have been on that side of the stage at one point in our lives," Eliason said. "At your age, you guys need to have a dream and need to have a goal. I had a saying on my college whiteboard in my dorm, 'Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.'
"Whatever your passion is, follow it. I’ve always said that the brick walls are there to stop people that don’t want something bad enough. If you want it, jump over those brick walls. Push over those brick walls. That’s what is going to get you there. That’s what got me there. It wasn’t an easy road. I got told by a lot of people it wasn’t going to happen and that I couldn’t do it."
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Morris shared that there is no substitute for hands-on experience.
"If you want to learn something, the best way is to just get in and try it," Morris said. "Tinker with things. Build things. Of course, having those mentors that when you’re trying it yourself and you kind of get stuck, or you don’t know what steps to take next - having mentors and having people that you can go to that can help lead you through that."
Photo credit: Urban Youth Racing School
Alex Bowman, the driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, took the stage next in a question-and-answer session with Pollard. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series winner talked about his path to racing, how he fell in love with cars, a typical race day, his training and preparation, and much more.
"The biggest thing for me was I knew at a really young age that I just loved cars," Bowman explained. "Whether it was working on cars, seeing cool cars, driving cars.
"When I started winning races and getting that feeling of winning, it kind of clicked. Once you start winning, I feel like it keeps going. It’s not like you just stop all of a sudden. I just really fell in love with it and knew it was something I wanted to do. I feel like every kid can say they want to be a race car driver but I was super passionate about it and really fell in love with it."
Pollard, who has become an avid NASCAR fan in recent years and became a spokesperson for Ally's diversity and inclusion efforts because of his tweets about racing, felt the day provided the youngsters with valuable information that could help get them into different career paths.
"These men and women, they are showing all the different avenues in motor sports, in regular sports, in life, period, working a job," Pollard told the students.
When it comes to achieving your goals, he added that "challenging yourself is very important. Nobody is going to make you do it."
The program wrapped up with a Money Matters session covering monetary basics like budgeting, planning and more - all aimed at fostering and encouraging good financial habits for the future.
The event was held in conjunction with the UYRS Celebrity Grand Prix of Philadelphia with Kyle Larson and Friends, which was sponsored by Ally. During the Grand Prix, Ally presented the UYRS with a check for $75,000 to continue its work exposing inner city youth from the ages of 8 to 18 to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) career opportunities in the motor sports industry.
PHOTOS: Hendrick Motorsports teammates participate in UYRS Grand Prix