BY Amanda Sotelo
“I was in shock when they called my name,” said Dolores Garza, Texas State Technical College Auto Collision Technology student. “I couldn’t believe I had received first place, the competition was so close. This was definitely a proud moment for me.”
Garza recently competed in the SkillsUSA competition for Auto Collision Technology in the refinishing category. She was the only female from the auto collision group to participate and has earned herself a first place win and a spot at state competition in April held at TSTC’s Waco campus.
SkillsUSA is a professional organization teaching technical, academic and employability skills that help high school and college students pursue successful careers. Members build these skills through student-led team meetings, contests, leadership conferences and other activities.
Preparation for SkillsUSA was intense said Garza. She practiced every Friday after class for two hours improving her prepping, masking, refinishing and blending skills, and because SkillsUSA is a timed competition Garza also had to perfect her timing.
“At each practice I focused and took advantage of all the time and pointers instructors would give me,” said Garza. “I had to do as much as could with the time I was given.”
Garza said she plans to put in the same work if not more for state competition. There are areas she said she feels she can improve in, but getting first place has allowed her to realize that auto collision is what she is supposed to be doing and where her future is at.
“Garza is one of my best students. She works hard and gets along with nearly everyone,” said Jose Vasquez, auto collision instructor. “In fact a judge came up to me after SkillsUSA praising Dolores and her work. He offered to help find her job after graduation. As far as I’m concerned she has a very bright future in this industry. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Garza’s love for cars started at a young age when she would help her father repair and replace tires, but it was not until she purchased her 1985 IROC Camaro in high school that she realized her passion.
“I was under the hood of that car all day, every day. Everything I did was self-taught. YouTube became my best friend,” said Garza. “Family and friends all encouraged me to pursue a career in the automotive field. So when I found TSTC and Auto Collision Technology, I let go of all my apprehension of being a woman in a male-dominated field, and enrolled.”
This is the best decision I could have made added Garza.
“Every single day at school, isn’t a day at school. It’s just fun,” said Garza. “Although school isn’t always easy, I’m actually happy now.”
Ultimately, Garza would like to open her own shop geared toward women. She explains she wants a place for women to feel comfortable at when their vehicles need service or repairs. Garza also plans on giving back to the college and community that has given so much to her.
“I want to eventually use my skills to help and donate my services to a good cause,” said Garza. “First though, I just hope I can represent our campus well and make everyone proud of me at state. I need to help the get word out about my program. In my eyes this is a top-notch program and I need to help get more women involved.”
More than 40 local TSTC students will attend the SkillsUSA state competition in April.
For more information on Auto Collision Technology call 956-364-4659. Registration for Summer and Fall 2016 begins in April. Apply anytime online at tstc.edu.