A native Freeman and a Dakota Wesleyan University junior grew up amid the rumble of his family’s garage and auto body shop, Saarie Auto Body & Repair, owned by his parents Blaine and Penny, he learned to tinker with the engines and keep the car looking good and running smoothly.
He recently applied this knowledge in an effort to secure a 2020 scholarship from the Specialized Equipment Market Association, as well as several other scholarships totaling over $10,000 that he plans to put toward tuition.
It was a process he undertook himself, without specific guidance from Dakota Wesleyan University, and he was glad to know he had been selected as the recipient.
“I didn’t really think (DWU) would be so interested,” Sarri said with a laugh during a recent interview. “But I was too proud of myself to have it.”
The SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund awarded $307,000 to 106 individuals in 2020, including scholarships for current students and loan forgiveness awards for employees of SEMA member companies. More than $3 million has been awarded to more than 1,600 students since the program was created in 1984.
The SEMA Scholarship Fund and Loan Forgiveness Program is dedicated to fostering the next generation of automotive aftermarket industry leaders and innovators by helping them launch successfully into their educational and aftermarket careers, according to the group’s website.
“We are excited to give our support to this passionate group of people as they begin to find new ways to advance the aftermarket future of specialty equipment,” said Tim Martin, SEMA Chairman. “This year’s winners represent the diversity and young talent in which our industry thrives, and we look forward to how their contributions will drive us forward for years to come.”
His scholarship included a trip to Las Vegas at the annual SEMA Show held in Las Vegas from November 1-5, which he attended with his parents. The trip was an excellent opportunity to meet fellow fellow scholarship recipients and network with industry professionals who were looking to fill positions and internships.
While applying for and receiving one of the 2020 scholarships, his admission and flight were delayed by a year due to COVID-19.
Saarie is a freshman studying business administration who has taken it upon himself to utilize his experience of growing in a business environment to start his educational experience. As part of his studies, as a freshman, he began his on-campus mechanical service, doing oil changes, brake pads replacement and other standard chores for fellow students. In addition to his other campus activities, he also works part-time at Doug Custom Paint & Body in Mitchell.
Shay Surrey, a native of Freeman and junior at Dakota Wesleyan University, was recently awarded a 2020 SEMA Memorial Scholarship. Saarie has applied for and received multiple scholarships as he looks forward to establishing a career in management in the automotive industry. Here, Saarie stands next to the 1979 Ford F150 Ranger pickup that was originally owned by his grandfather. He and his father restored it to its former glory in his parents’ garage and mechanic in Freeman. (Eric Kaufman/Mitchell Republic)
“I started[in the auto business]because my parents own a Saarie Auto Body in Freeman, and all my life I’ve been building vehicles and doing repairs with my dad here in the shop and at home. So all my high school years were filled with rebuilding engines, drawing cards with my dad. And spend quality time with her,” Sarri said. “I started running a convenience store on campus for everyone who needed an oil change or just general maintenance.
The scholarship would help with his education costs, but it also gave him the opportunity to travel and network with professionals from across the automotive industry. This was particularly useful, as he aimed to find a job somewhere in industrial management rather than putting his head under a hood as part of his career.
He plans to graduate early next year, and will seek internship opportunities that can lead him to the next step in his search for his career.
“Internship is next. I was the fat guy. I love working on the engines and doing the mechanical side with it and I’ve done some work in the auto body shop too,” Sarri said. “But I think I would be better suited for a manager type job.”
In the meantime, he has found ways to keep himself occupied, if nothing else, by applying for more scholarships. When he applied for and got the 2020 SEMA scholarship, he didn’t realize he was eligible to apply for it every year, so he skipped applying for the 2021 scholarship. He expects to re-apply for it again in 2022, and he hopes to keep getting lucky.
It’s been good luck so far already. In addition to his $5,000 SEMA scholarship, he’s also received a $2,200 scholarship from the Automotive Aftermarket Foundation, a $1,000 scholarship from Modern Woodmen of America, and a $1,000 scholarship from the Freeman Community Foundation , and a $2,200 grant from South Dakota retailers. organisation.
They all need something a little different. Part of his application for the Automotive Aftermarket Foundation grant included a video showing his father’s efforts to restore his grandfather’s 1979 Ford F150 Ranger pickup, the first Saarie ever owned.
Saarie said he loved his time at DWU and is looking forward to the extended period from his home on the Mitchell campus. He also noted that scholarships come in all shapes and sizes and college students can make simple mistakes by going out and trying to get those scholarships.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Score as many as you can. All you can do is win or lose, it doesn’t matter. You don’t give anything but your effort to fill the order,” Sarri said.