LEXINGTON (CBS) — A unique partnership between the Minuteman Vocational Technical High School and a non-profit helps a local veteran get a car and gives future car mechanics valuable experience and a great feeling of helping someone out.

Aris Lopez, a Coast Guard veteran, smiled ear to ear as the cover came off the first car he’s ever owned. “I went a long time just being in survivor mode, trying to figure out what the next step is going to be. I’m glad to feel this big break,” he said.

The 2004 Volkswagen was donated to Second Chance Cars, a one-year-old organization with the goal of putting low-income veterans in the driver’s seat.

“This is the kind of moment where you can go from hoping to survive, to potentially thriving,” said Dan Holin, head of Second Chance.

But it’s the automotive technology students at Lexington’s Minuteman Voke Tech who did the work to get the car road-ready, making repairs and checking tires, brakes, and the electrical system.

Aris Lopez drives off in his new used car (WBZ-TV)

“I think it’s awesome that some of the work that I did will benefit someone that’s in need,” said sophomore Ajas Thakur, who is in the program.

“I think it’s a good idea to help people who don’t have enough money,” said student Matthew Gately.

“I think to see a connection between their work and how it helps other people in a real practical way, I know it’s very satisfying,” said Superintendent Ed Bouquillon.

The cars are usually worth from $3,000 to $5,000 and aren’t completely free for the veteran. They each receive a $900 interest-free loan so they pay a small part of the costs while rebuilding their credit.

Lopez, a father of two, works two jobs and used to get around by riding a bike or spending money he can ill afford on rideshare services. “Just with budgeting and the finances not being there, it’s been very hard,” he said.

Having the car will also let him visit his kids who live in New Hampshire.

“I have options now. I can travel now.” And as he heads out with his new, used car, his possibilities are growing.

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