Fixing cars fuels passion, drives ambition


Andrew Weedon / The Advocate

Automotive student Craig Yannow checks the fluid levels in the engine of his 1995 Camaro Z28 while in the automotive department in the CTC Building.

By Andrew Weedon, Scene Editor

The humble story from skateboard to Camaro is an example of how your true calling might not be what you expected.

Contra Costa College automotive student Craig Yannow, 20, didn’t expect his dream job to be working on cars.

“When I was younger I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” Yannow said.

Born in Vallejo and raised in El Cerrito, Yannow spent quite a few years skating the hills of the East Bay on his custom skateboard.

“I spent a lot of time just walking up the Berkeley hills and blasting back down on my board,” he said.

After a while, however, he said his body decided to give up on skateboarding because of the constant physical strain it put him under.

“Even though I stopped skating, I still loved the community and how tight-knit it was,” he said.

Yannow says he wasn’t the best student throughout his academic career.

“I went to Spectrum Schools for a bit but eventually my teachers and parents realized it wasn’t the place for me,” Yannow said. “I finished high school at Tilden Preparatory School, which was a great experience.”

Yannow said he was grateful for the fact that his parents were able to pay to have him attend Tilden.

“I never really wanted to go to a university. It just didn’t sound like my thing,” Yannow said.

His life changed course when, at age 16, he was asked by his neighbor to help fix a car.

“It was a 2001 Dodge Intrepid that had a cooling problem,” he said.

After three days, he and his neighbor were able to get the car working and driving again.

“The feeling of accomplishment you get from fixing something is amazing. It’s like a drug,” he said.

This set Yannow on path that he never thought he would go down.

When it came time to search for a college to attend he began looking at an automotive school in Alameda, but when he saw the automotive department at CCC his decision was made.

“I was incredibly impressed with all of the new equipment CCC had to offer and that’s what helped me make up my mind to attend the college,” he said.

Despite an inherent interest in cars, Yannow said that he really wants to make sure people get repairs done properly on their vehicles.

This compassion for others doesn’t stop at vehicles.

Yannow volunteers at a local church to serve food to those in need and also works with the Western Service Workers Association.

Now working in Berkeley, Yannow recently bought his first car, a 1995 Camaro Z28.

With the help of automotive professor Bobby Sturgeon, he was able to find problems with the car to help talk the price down.

“I think it’s really cool that he had a dream car, then worked and saved money to buy it,” Sturgeon said.

Sturgeon said that Yannow does really well in the automotive program because it’s a different type of learning.

“I’m really proud of him. Not everyone is able to do these type of things we ask students to do in the program,” he said.

Cristhian Cano, an automotive major enrolled in the same electrical class at CCC, said that Yannow is a fun guy who makes everybody laugh.

Cano said that Yannow is smart but has the mentality of a life-long learner, as he is constantly striving to expand his knowledge in many different areas.

As Yannow prepares to take a job at a Firestone Tire shop, he still makes time to recall fond memories.

“I remember driving up to Grizzly Peak Boulevard (in Berkeley) one night a while ago. I had forgotten to bring a jacket, so I sat on the hood of the car and the engine kept me warm. The area was foggy but I could see more stars than I ever had before.”