Lifting spirits: Students raise funds to honor friend’s memory

Andrew Wolff has been described by friends and family as “a leader,” “dynamic,” “mature,” “funny,” “happy,” “a lover of life” and “a wonderful friend.”

It is the memory of him that has brought a group of Hylton High School students together to raise money for their school’s automotive program. Wolff, a sophomore, was killed Jan. 14 when the car in which he was a passenger ran off the road into a parked tow truck. According to eyewitness reports, Wolff, 16, died instantly.

Now, classmates are working to donate a four-post automotive lift in his name. The hydraulic lift will allow mechanics to work on heavy vehicles and utilize the latest alignment techniques. The lift will cost approximately $13,000 and is more advanced than what the school currently uses. Wolff excelled in the automotive program after transferring from Woodbridge High to be a part of it, according to instructor Ed Stevens.

“In the short time he was there he lit a fire in some of the kids that were with him. He was going to be one of the greatest [automotive technicians],” he said.

The project began when Wolff’s mother, Karen, asked that donations be sent to the Hylton automotive program in lieu of flowers.

“He loved the program, and so I knew that if it was his decision, that is definitely what he would want,” she said. “It never ever occurred to me that the kids would take it this far. It is mind-boggling to me that they have set their sights and their goals as high as they have in his memory.”

Stevens and his students then decided that they wanted to use the money to make a lasting donation to Wolff’s memory. The lift, he said, will have Wolff’s picture beside it on a plaque and will be dedicated in a ceremony.

Recent graduate Ashley Olds said the lift would memorialize him to future students who enter the program.

“We are hoping to raise enough money for a hydraulic lift so other students who came into the program could use it in memory of him,” she said. The group has raised a little more than $4,500 dollars so far.

Although the lift will be purchased at cost, the price will be significant, Stevens said. Shipping and installation also drive the price up.

Olds, 17, said the students have been working hard to see that they meet their goal. They have been visiting local businesses and auto dealerships, many of which have made donations. Many of the students also have made telephone calls and written letters.

“He would be extremely happy about it. He wouldn’t want everyone to mourn as much as we did,” Olds said. “He was down to business when it came to it. I think he’d be happy that we put it to good use in his name.”

Principal Robert Benson said the support shown by students is significant.

“The kids have rallied around the [automotive] program in support of him and in memory of him,” he said.

Wolff’s goal was to be an automotive technician. According to those who knew him, he was serious about his goals and was going to accomplish them. Karen Wolff said that her son began “eating, sleeping and breathing cars” when he was 14.

“His goal was to work on cars and possibly own his own shop someday,” she said. “He was most interested in working on Corvettes.”

The automotive technology program requires students to fill out an extensive application, which is used to review an applicant’s past attendance, grades, references and level of interest. The application additionally requires three teacher evaluations before being reviewed by an admissions committee made up of instructors, practicing automotive technology workers and managers. The committee reviews applications and makes recommendations as to who is finally admitted. The program is certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation and Automotive Youth Educational Services. According to Benson, Wolff fit the program’s mold.

“He was a very talented mechanic. He was very respected in our program, and it was tragic to have lost him,” he said.

Anyone who wishes to make a contribution can send donations to: Andrew Wolff Foundation: C.D. Hylton High School, 14051 Spriggs Road, Woodbridge, VA 22193.

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