BY Amanda Sotelo
Claudia Amanda Felici recently graduated with a certificate from Texas State Technical College in Auto Collision Technology. She was only one of three women enrolled in these courses, yet she never stopped following her dream. She will be returning in Spring 2016 to earn her associate degree in the field.
Felici is an artist and has a passion for drawing and painting. Her dream of going to an art institute was realized when she accepted an offer from the Art Institute of Houston after graduating high school in 2006. Shortly after, however, her dream was shattered.
Felici was hit by a car walking to class in November 2006. She was in a coma for two and half weeks and to this day remembers nothing two days before the accident up until Christmas Eve.
“I don’t remember anything,” said Felici. “According to my mom, the driver swerved to prevent hitting two people when he struck me.”
After the accident, Felici moved back to the Rio Grande Valley with her family. Her mom was apprehensive about letting her go back to Houston, so Felici decided to attend a local college.
“I went to UTPA for graphic design, but it didn’t work out for me,” said Felici. “Then after researching I found auto collision at TSTC, so I decided to enroll and it was the best decision I could have made.”
Felici now holds a 3.7 grade-point average, getting mostly As and Bs in her classes. She has been able to continue dabbling in her passion of art, but using vehicles as her canvas.
“My favorite part about auto collision is the painting and detailing,” said Felici. “Perhaps it’s my love of art, but this is the type of job I want to pursue after graduating.”
Felici said she knows there are many opportunities for her to pursue. She hopes to find a job at a local body shop painting cars and doing customized paint jobs for clients. One day, she wants to own her own body shop with a unique flare.
“I want to do one of kind work,” said Felici. “I want to do custom paint and pinstriping. I want each car I work on to look different and look like nothing else out there on the road.”
Besides being an academic standout, Felici was also the recipient of the Women’s Industry Network (WIN) Scholarship. As a recipient of the scholarship, she had the opportunity to attend the Women’s Industry Network conference in Washington D.C.
“The conference was only women and it was great to see how many of us are in the industry and how many own their own businesses,” said Felici. “Everyone was so supportive and inspirational. This really made me realize I made the right decision entering auto collision.”
During Spring 2015, Felici also earned the chance to participate in TSTC Waco’s Skills USA competition after winning third place in the first round of competition in auto body work in Harlingen. She also serves as the Auto Body Club artist.
Felici said she considers herself a strong, determined woman, but still owes her success to her fiancé Jacob Lopez and father Aldo Felici.
“If there’s something I want to accomplish I do it,” said Felici. “But this is only possible because I get great support from others.”
Felici added they only have one car, so without her dad picking her up and dropping her off every day, getting to class would be impossible. Times are tough for Felici, but she remains positive that college was worth the sacrifice and having her fiancé by her side making sure she has enough food, even on the days there is only enough food for one of them, and getting enough sleep, makes it easier.
“Times are tough so we have to watch our money and spend wisely,” said Felici. “I barely had enough to get my cap and gown.”
Felici got her cap and gown and was able to walk the stage to receive her certificate. Her hope is that other women will follow in her footsteps.
“Don’t be afraid,” said Felici. “I know it’s a male-dominated field, but just do it. It’s time we get ahead.”
Students in Auto Collision Technology receive hands-on training in auto body refinishing, molding and restoring, in addition to auto body repair estimation. These skills are taught by TSTC instructors who are certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR).
For more information on Auto Collision Technology call 956-364-4659.