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Auto collision program sees increase in female students

MAKING REPAIRS — Juniors Bailey Fillman, Joshua Riley and Cloa James work on removing dents from a vehicle in their auto collision program at Jefferson County Joint Vocational School. The program is seeing a rise in female students who have an interest in making it a career. Also pictured in the back are Vivian Dubravski and Ashley White. (Contributed photo)

BLOOMINGDALE — More females are showing interest in what has been a predominantly male program at Jefferson County Joint Vocational School.

The auto collision program has seen a rise in female students with four of its five juniors and one of its six seniors being girls. Instructor Russell Achhammer said he was surprised by the increase, but the students are eager to learn how to design and refinish vehicle surfaces with welding, sanding and painting techniques and use the same advanced equipment as master technicians.

“I average two female students a year, but this is the first year I’ve had so many,” he said. “They all do well in class.”

Juniors Bailey Fillman, Vivian Dubravski, Cloa James and Ashley White say they all like delving into their creative side, especially with the automobiles.

Fillman, a student at Edison High School, said interest ran in her family but she didn’t realize how close the ties were to the JVS.

“My uncle took the class and on sophomore day we got to pick our class to go here. I saw this class and never experienced anything like it. As soon as I saw the class I knew I wanted to be here,” she added. “I didn’t find out my uncle was in it until before school started.”

Fillman sees herself making a career in the field and would encourage other females to take the program.

“I would say don’t be afraid. There are a lot of good opportunities for males and females. This is probably the best choice I’ve ever made.”

Dubravski, who attends Indian Creek High School, enjoys the program and her family also liked working with cars, but in a different capacity.

“The main reason (I signed up) is because the teacher is really chill and kind,” she said. “I also love painting and my family is into repairing cars.”

She loves painting, repairing and refinishing fenders and car parts and all aspects of the program and sees herself working in the field. Dubravski also encouraged other girls to get involved.

“Girls are very artistic and detailed and this is the best program,” she noted.

Cloa James, another ICHS student, has always liked to dabble in different subjects and initially planned to join another program but said she’s found a real enjoyment in the lab.

“I took this and really, really like it,” James said. “It makes me feel powerful and like I can really do something. I learned to paint, sand, cut metal and take out dents and I see myself doing this as a career.”

She encouraged other girls to consider the program because it isn’t just a man’s trade.

“You can actually do it better than a lot of the boys,” she commented.

White, who also attends ICHS, is following her grandfather’s footsteps and hopes to make it her business.

“My pap was always interested in auto body collision, so I’m really following in his footsteps. He used to work on this and was into body and mechanics. My plan is to go to college, get a business degree and have my own business.”

She finds it fun, fast-paced and a way to better herself.

“I love this,” she said.

Joshua Riley, who attends ICHS, may be outnumbered in the program but said he is learning a lot.

“It keeps you busy and I like to paint and draw,” he said. “I think I’d like to have a career (in this).”

He also jokes that he provides muscle for the program.

“They have me to do all the strong stuff,” he said with a smile.

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