Luis Gutierrez moved to Aurora, IL, from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico at the age of 2. When he turned 16, he got his first car---a 1986 Buick Regal---which he dreamed of turning into a Low-Rider.
Tyler LeJeune and his father, Travis, moved from Lake Charles, LA, to Greater Houston, TX, when Tyler was in sixth grade. Now, the 17-year-old is a senior at Kingwood Park High School, taking collision repair courses.
Austin Townsend said he has been passionate about “everything automotive” for as long as he can remember.
Ricky Rosa of Aurora, IL, said he had never even changed his own oil before applying to the auto body program at Waubonsee Community College.
Kingwood Park, TX, native Cameren May discovered his love for “anything with a motor” when his dad brought home a 1981 Firebird for them to work on just two years ago.
Twenty-year-old Dylan Ahmdt took home gold at the 53rd annual National Leadership and Skills Conference (SkillsUSA) in Louisville, KY, which took place from June 19-23.
La Feria, TX, native Victoria Ramirez has always loved working with cars, which is why she made the decision to enroll at Texas State Technical College in 2016.
“My family and friends are very supportive of me attending technical school and pursuing collision repair,” she said. “TSTC was the obvious choice since it’s close to home.”
Ramirez already had an automotive certificate that she earned from TSTC in the summer of 2014, but she wanted to expand her education even further.
“I decided I didn't want to only learn the mechanical side,” Ramirez said. “I wanted to know how to return vehicles to pre-accident condition.”
Ramirez added that she especially wanted to learn about refinishing.
“I think refinishing is a work of art, and I’ve always loved art,” she explained.
Ramirez said that painting comes naturally to her.
“I’ve really enjoyed learning how to airbrush color, how to use candy colors, and how to pin stripe,” she said.
Ramirez has also competed in the national SkillsUSA competition in Louisville, KY, where her team finished in sixth place.
“The SkillsUSA competition was challenging, but we put on our best show,” she said.
Ramirez is also a member of the auto body club at her TSTC.
“I’d like to thank my instructors, Mr. J. Vasquez and Mr. Cantu, for supporting me and showing me their knowledge of the auto collision industry,” Ramirez added. “My three sons, Julien, Moses and Matthew, are also a huge inspiration to me. They make me want to be better for them.”
Despite her dedication to the craft and support from family and instructors, Ramirez said she still faces a specific adversity in the field---a common theme at technical colleges across the country.
“Being a woman in a male-dominated industry has been very challenging,” Ramirez said. “Others think that because I’m a woman, I won’t be able to get the job done or that I don’t know what I’m doing.”
The Texas native said the area she’s from is particularly challenging in this regard, which is why she hopes to leave after graduation in August 2017.
“I plan to move to a bigger city like Houston or Las Vegas to try my luck out there in the industry and work my way to the top of whichever shop I’m hired at,” Ramirez said. “I feel that here in the Rio Grande Valley, there are no jobs for a lady. People say girls are supposed to be behind a desk and not out there getting their hands dirty with paint or grease.”
For more information on TSTC, visit tstc.edu.
Jamal Mills graduated from Central Louisiana Technical Community College in May 2017, and is already working fulltime at Select Motors Auto Restoration & Repair in Ball, LA.
Justin Maldonado learns something new every day at Texas State Technical College.
Justin Maldonado started taking courses at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen, TX 10 months ago. Before his “love and passion for vehicles” led him to pursue a career in collision repair, he spent his winter holiday and summer breaks painting gym floors across the state.
Destiny Armendariz worked at her father’s custom paint shop before taking auto collision classes in school.
Destiny Armendariz is not your average teenager. Apart from playing football as a middle linebacker at Kingwood Park High School, she will begin her third year of collision and refinishing courses in the fall.
Waubonsee Community College auto body student, Melanie Thomas, has placed first three times in regional SkillsUSA competitions.
Melanie Thomas decided her senior year that she was going to take every automotive course offered at Marengo High School in Illinois.
Casey Skelton enrolled in the Automotive Collision Repair Program at Athens Technical College in January 2017.
Hitting a deer with only liability coverage would be a disaster for most people, but Casey Skelton was able to find a silver lining.
Nancy McInerney repairs a vehicle during one of her courses at TCAT Crossville.
As Nancy McInerney approached her fourth and final year in a student teaching program, she realized her passion lay elsewhere.
After trying out a four-year university and working at a carpet cleaning company, Ryan Mader gave collision repair a shot.
Ryan Mader didn't discover his love for cars and body work until his early 20s.