Isabella Ayala tries out the driver's ed car with teacher Glen Hale at Sequoia Pathway. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A program that started in October is making it less nerve-racking for teens to take their driving tests and get a license.

Drivers education has returned to Maricopa on the campus of Sequoia Pathway Academy, but it’s not just for Pathway students. Some have come from as far away as Mountain Pointe High School.

“The first seminar we had 23 kids,” said Pathway Athletic Director Glen Hale, who teaches the class. “They all passed, which was awesome for our first time.”

There were more seminars in December and January. The three-hour class is taught on a Saturday morning. Students watch a PowerPoint presentation, have interactive discussions and review. Then they take the written test. If they pass, they receive a certificate and can go to the MVD and get a permit.

“It’s exciting to have that moment with the kids, just to be part of that when they’re so relieved, but also to lower their anxiety,” Hale said. “It takes you back and you remember when you took the test.”

If they fail, Hale tells them to take notes home and study and come back in a couple of weeks to try again.

Sixteen-year-old Isabella Ayala has a 2019 Honda Civic waiting for her when she gets fully licensed. Before taking the seminar, she had tried the test the way many teens do when there is no drivers ed class available.

“I took it online and failed,” Isabella said. “I didn’t want to risk it again.”

Then she learned about Hale starting the program at Pathway.

“I thought, ‘OK, he’s my favorite teacher, so it’s a win-win,’” she said. “At first, I was nervous, because I learn more hands-on, and I didn’t know what to expect.”

Like others who have passed the written test, she awaits the driving portion of the licensing process.

A Behind-the-Wheel program starts Feb. 25. That involves 30 hours in class and six hours behind the wheel. The program has a Toyota Prius for student drivers.

Hale said the classes discuss the practical aspects of driving, rules of the road, what to do when pulled over by law enforcement and the specific street situations in Maricopa.

“We relate it to Maricopa,” Hale said. “It’s amazing to use our city as a backdrop to take the test.”

He said the classes lower the insurance rates for teen drivers. The course involves guest speakers from the police and fire departments as well as Courtney Tyler of State Farm.

The permit seminars cost $30. Behind-the-Wheel training costs $240.

Contact Hale at ghale@edkey.org.

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