BREAKING THE MOLD: Lakeisha St. John
NMCC Automotive Collision Repair (ACR) student and Limestone, Maine native Lakeisha St. John is a risk-taker who isn’t afraid to try something new. In high school, she attended the Caribou Regional Technology Center (CRTC) where she studied residential construction during her sophomore and junior year. She recalls walking by the ACR shop everyday on her way to class. “ACR looked really cool. I needed an extra class senior year, so I ended up taking ACR and I really liked it.”
Lakeisha first started working on vehicles at the CRTC. “I didn’t get a chance to grow up around cars. I had to start from the beginning.” She bought a vehicle and was able to work on it in the shop. With the help of her classmates, the vehicle was repaired and looked like new again. “We rebuilt the back end of a wrecked car. I learned a lot.”
In addition to the close proximity to home and being affordable, Lakeisha chose NMCC because the College has the only accredited ACR program in New England. She recently had the opportunity to participate in Skills USA in Bangor, Maine, where she won a silver medal in the collision repair competition for her division.
Lakeisha is passionate about her work. “I enjoy making something look good again. That’s really cool. I also like working with my hands.” She prefers a job that keeps her busy. “I work better in a fast-paced environment.” She also likes the variety that a career in ACR brings. “It’s different every day.”
For the past four months, Lakeisha has been job shadowing at Caldwell’s Auto LLC in Limestone. She has really enjoyed her time there, and hopes to obtain full-time employment at the shop when she graduates from NMCC in May. Owner Robbie Caldwell has been a mentor to Lakeisha, providing her with feedback and advice when she completes tasks in the shop. “I really appreciate the time he has spent with me.”
While working on vehicles, Lakeisha doesn’t consider gender. “I don’t ever think about being one of the only females. I just go to the shop and do my work.” She has strengths that she brings to the ACR field. “I have smaller hands, which makes it easier to complete certain tasks. Also, I have a better eye for color matching and I’m detail-oriented.”
Although Lakeisha has experienced some challenges as a woman in a male-dominated field, she maintains a positive attitude. “People may doubt me because I’m a female, but they get over it. They see that I am worth the time and that I have every right to be there as they do. Sometimes you have to work a little harder to prove yourself.”
Perhaps her confidence and fearless attitude is genetic. Lakeisha’s mother, who passed away six years ago, pursued a male-dominated career. She completed the CDL program at NMCC and earned her Class A license. “I looked up to her.”
Lakeisha is thankful for the moral support she has received from family and friends while attending NMCC including: cousin, Jayna and her husband, Derek Bosse; her boyfriend, Thomas “Binks” Albert; and, classmate, Mark Cyr. “They have been my support group during my time here.”
A focused and dedicated student, Lakeisha offers tips for academic success. “Practice good time management skills. Always do your homework and go to class every day.” To stay organized, Lakeisha uses her NMCC student planner regularly.
Lakeisha offers advice for females considering a career in ACR. “Just do it and put yourself out there. Don’t be intimidated. It’s okay if you don’t know everything. You’re there to learn.”
Automotive Body and Related Repairers
Repair and refinish automotive vehicle bodies and straighten vehicle frames.
Repairing, active listening, complex problem solving, monitoring, and operation and control.
2016 National Average Pay
Projected Job Growth: 2016-2026
Source: O’NET Online (2017)
NMCC 2016 ACR Graduate Success Rate (Employed, Continuing Education, or both)