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Fixing cars, breaking tradition

OHS junior Joselyne Villagomez is being honored for studying auto collision repair, a field typically dominated by men. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
May 05, 2010 - As if being a teenage girl wasn't tough enough these days, imagine being one in a class filled with boys studying a field that's typically controlled by men.

That's an awful lot of testosterone to deal with, but Oxford High School junior Joselyne Villagomez handles it well and even excels in her auto collision repair class.

To honor her dedication and moxy, the Michigan Department of Education is recognizing her with a Breaking Traditions Merit Award. "I was really happy and excited," Villagomez said. "It's for excelling in a male-dominated class."

She's one of 14 winners statewide. The award, which she will receive May 13 in Lansing, recognizes students who are training for careers that are not traditionally associated with their gender.

Villagomez spends half of each school day studying auto collision repair at the Oakland Schools Technical Campus (OSTC) Northeast in Pontiac. She started there last fall.

"I just thought it would be something different and I wanted to try it out because I just love cars," she said. "It's a lot of hands-on work and that's what I mostly like to do."

She's been described by her instructor Ralph Jones and OSTC counselor Pierre Hall, Sr. as a self-starter who will often lead a project by giving instruction and direction to her male classmates.

As one of only two females in the class, Villagomez said she gets "a little bit of harassment," but overall she's treated very well.

"My observation is that she competes with boys in the classroom," Hall said. "However, when the overalls come off, there is no doubt that she is a young lady and she demands to be treated as such and not as one of the boys."

Following her graduation from OHS, Villagomez wishes to attend Ohio Technical College in Cleveland to pursue a career in collision repair.

When asked about the prospect of her one day owning her own shop, Villagomez replied, "Maybe later in life."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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