While some teenage girls might spend their weekends shopping at the mall, Auto Body student Kate Matthews spent hers checking out old muscle cars at the Bear Mountain Car Show.
“When I began to work in this industry, my passion caught fire,” said Kate, whose all-time favorite dream car is a 1970 Dodge Challenger “in plum purple.”
Her passion and skill have paid off. The Hendrick Hudson senior recently received the Vanguard Award, which recognizes outstanding secondary and postsecondary level students who are enrolled in Career and Technical programs that are not traditional for their gender.
“I’ve never been a ‘girly girl,’” says Kate, who credits her father and grandfather with helping her to work at traditionally male-dominated tasks. “I used to help my father rebuild bathrooms and floors,” she says. “I still help with renovations on our house.” Her grandfather, who was a bus mechanic, taught her father, “and in return my father taught me,” about auto mechanics, Kate says.
Kate was not deterred by the fact that the field she was interested in was traditionally run by men. “I knew the automotive industry was a male-dominated place, which caused me to be even more determined to break the mold,” Kate says.
This determination brought her to the attention of Cara Long, deputy director of the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society at the University of Albany, which gives out the award, after Kate’s teachers recommended her for it.
“Kate’s essay was outstanding,” Ms. Long said. “It was wonderful to know that she thinks of her school environment as so supportive. It’s great for students to know that they can be accepted in non-traditional roles.”
In fact, Kate credits her Auto Body teachers, Stephen Zavodsky and Ed Miraglia, with creating that supportive environment that makes her — and all their students — succeed.
“I do not really have any famous role models that have influenced me because I do not believe that a famous figure can do that,” she says. “But I do have two of the greatest teachers who are two of the most genuinely good-hearted people I have ever met.”
Kate, who hopes to get her B.S. degree at SUNY Morrisville, studying automotive technology and management, says her dream is to own her own shop one day.
“Every day when I work on a car, it seems as though nothing matters, and all that is important is working on that one car,” she says. “That satisfaction I receive is one of the greatest feelings in the world.”