Topeka High School teacher surprises student with car gift
Topeka Dean Fairweather sees many students come and go through the automotive classes he teaches at Topeka High School, and a few stand out as being mechanic material.
"We have two juniors here right now who are going to be great mechanics," Fairweather said. "They're very serious about it."
On Wednesday morning, another Topeka High student — senior Brianna Henderson — was the center of attention, as Fairweather surprised her with the keys to a dark green 2000 Mazda 626 that had been given to him by his father-in-law, Lee Wright, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
Fairweather said Henderson has been in his classes since her freshman year. In her sophomore year, she gave birth to her son, Zayl, who will turn 2 years old in January.
He held her spot in the automotive mechanics class while she was away for nine weeks after giving birth, and when she returned, she was able to pick up where she left off.
Starting her junior year, Henderson embarked on an associate degree program at Washburn Tech in automotive mechanics. She went half a day to Topeka High and the other half of the day to Washburn Tech, a schedule she has kept up in this, her senior year.
This coming May, Henderson, 18, is set to graduate from both Topeka High and Washburn Tech. Then, in fall 2016, she will begin studying auto mechanics — specializing in Toyota repair — at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis.
Knowing Henderson's current car, a 1996 Pontiac Sunfire, is out of commission right now and needs a lot of work, Fairweather began entertaining the idea of giving the Mazda he had received to her, after some minor work was completed on it. The more he thought about it, the better the idea seemed.
On Wednesday morning, Fairweather learned Henderson had been accepted to Ranken Technical College. He asked her to come to Topeka High's auto shop in the 900 block of S.W. Western — across the street west from the main school campus — and told her the news.
Then he told her she would need dependable transportation to get her back and forth from St. Louis, and presented the car to her.
"It was my car," said Fairweather, who cleared giving it to Henderson ahead of time with Topeka Unified School District 501 officials. "I could do with it what I wanted."
Upon seeing the car, Henderson covered her face with her hands and shed a few tears as she smiled in disbelief over the gift.
"This was a complete surprise," she said several minutes after realizing the car belonged to her. "I wasn't expecting this."
She said Fairweather has been a positive influence for her, and that he encouraged her to always do her best, something she said she has tried to do in her academics and mechanics.
Henderson said her ultimate goal is to become a certified automotive technician — a field that is always looking for more qualified women — and someday own her own shop.