Stories @ TCAT

Ethan Self of Greene County is pictured in the Diesel Powerd Equipment Technology shop at TCAT Elizabethton, 426 Highway 91 North, in the Watauga Industrial park across from the Elizabethton Municipal Airport.

Ethan grew up on a farm in Chuckey. He is used to hard work tending to livestock, plowing the fields to make ready for planting row crops, harvesting the bounty, and loading 70 pound hay bales onto a hauler in sweltering heat during the summer months. 

Today, he is learning how to make repairs to farm equipment at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Elizabethton, where he was recently named 2018 Student of The Year.

Ethan’s love of farming began early in life. The majority of his neighbors in the 600 square mile rural Greene County are farmers.  

“I have had a fascination with tractors and large trucks since I was a young boy.  At a very young age I could name every tractor.  I couldn’t wait to become a farmer and have my own tractor,” he recalled. 

“My favorite big truck was a Peterbilt.  My grandfather and all his friends were truck drivers and I loved to be around them and help them when they worked on their trucks.   I understand now why they were so proud of their trucks.  My grandfather always had a difficult time finding a reliable mechanic this side of Knoxville. If the trucks weren’t rolling then we couldn’t make any money.  At an early age I knew that there was a need for diesel mechanics and that was when I wanted to be a mechanic,” he said. 

Finding a reliable mechanic to work on your farm equipment during hay season was problematic. “You might have a better chance winning the lottery,” he predicted

“A few years ago, the clutch went out on our tractor.  This is unfortunate because it was right at the beginning of hay season.  We harvest about 60 acres of square baled hay every year to sell in the winter months.  My dad had a hard time finding someone to work on the clutch of the tractor.  Everyone kept putting us off and finally at the middle of June we found a good reliable mechanic to work on our old Massey.  I was lucky to be able to assist with the break- down of the clutch and helped to put it back together,” Self said 

In high school, he had agricultural classes.  He said the classes helped him learn the importance of transportation and how it keeps our country’s economy running.  “Every loaf of bread, jug of milk, and every item in the grocery store came from somewhere and is shipped on a tractor trailer with a diesel motor.”

Ethan is pictured checking fluids on Kubota lawn equipment at TCAT Elizabethton, a designated Kubota training center.

Diesel technicians play a very important role in keeping to our country’s economy strong.  “We have to keep tractor trailers rolling to make sure goods are delivered all over the world.  Just stop and think about all the items that will be shipped this holiday season by diesel engines.  So many people take this for granted all the time and the amount of money it takes to keep our economy working.  Without them, there would be no farms or transportation, no food or goods,” Self said. 

Self attends class at TCAT Elizabethton from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. He also works as a mechanic assistant at G &W Hauling and Rigging, where he changes brakes and tires on trucks and trailers, and also does trailer lighting and metal fabrication. In addition, he is a farm helper with CEC Farms, where he assists with all duties on the farm, including beef and forage production.

“I am proud to be a student at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology where my instructors are providing a positive learning environment for me. I will do my best to learn as much as I can from the diesel training program.”

Ethan travels to Knoxville on Feb. 20 for East Tennessee Regional Competition in a bid to become State Student of the Year, which is now called Statewide Outstanding Achievement Recognition (SOAR) Award, a program sponsored by the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Students from 13 community colleges and 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology are competing for the prestigious award. Among criteria are good moral character, leadership, high academic standards, and community involvement.

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