High School Vehicle Builds Raise More Than $148K for Youth Initiatives

By Ashley Reyes 

Three customized third-generation Toyota 4Runners and two Jeep Wrangler TJs were sold via auction as part of SEMA High School Vehicle Build Program in late July. All five builds, which were built by high-school students with the help and direction of their shop teachers, raised a grand combined total of $148,250 to benefit automotive youth engagement initiatives through SEMA.  

John Hersey

John Hersey’s ’97 Toyota 4Runner.

The builds were auctioned through program partner Bring a Trailer (BaT)—an online auction marketplace for buying and selling special vehicles. One vehicle was released a day for five consecutive days and held a seven-day auction life in what was called the “SEMA Week of Customs.”  

Career Center

Career Center High School’s ’01 Jeep Wrangler TJ.

“Bring a Trailer is proud to support this SEMA program and all the schools and students involved,” said Randy Nonnenberg, co-founder and president of Bring a Trailer. “Many of us at BaT started wrenching on cars at high-school age, and it is important to invest in those who are just getting started at that age today. The proceeds from these vehicles will play a pivotal role in inspiring even more youth to preserve and promote this amazing hobby.”


OPS Career Center’s ’96 Toyota 4Runner.

Participating schools were John Hersey High School, Arlington Heights, Illinois; Career Center High School, Winston Salem, North Carolina.; OPS Career Center, Omaha, Nebraska; Comstock High School, Kalamazoo, Michigan; and Santa Fe ECO, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Fifty-three automotive aftermarket companies sponsored parts for the builds, which gave students real-world, hands-on auto-tech skills and lessons on the manufacturers’ products.  

Santa Fe

Santa Fe ECO’s ’02 Jeep Wrangler TJ.

“The students not only learned new skills but were taught to develop a cohesive plan for each vehicle and follow it out to execution,” said Byron Bergmann, project manager, member services at SEMA. “Each school should be extremely proud of their work and for going above and beyond to create a one-of-a-kind vehicle.”  


Comstock HS’ ’97 Toyota 4Runner.

Ten vehicles were selected to participate in the 2020 program, which was put on hold due to COVID-19 before resuming earlier this year. To learn more about the SEMA High School Vehicle Program and the five remaining student builds set to auction off in late September, visit