Imagine: cruising downtown, top down, radio blasting, wind blowing, hair flying, oh yeah, in a '69 Chevy Chevelle (has to be a Chevelle) SS 396 Super Sport, two doors and eight cylinders, bright--real bright--orange with black bucket seats, muscle car, as in Ahnald muscles, as in anabolic steroids muscles, as in...
Yup, Rachel Fonseca is daydreaming about cars again, about big cars, and not just about driving them. About fixing them and painting them, about turning old wrecks into new, shiny beauties. The problem is it’s the middle of public-policy class at UMass Dartmouth, and the 18-year-old freshman should be paying more attention to the professor. (C’mon, Rachel, look at the blackboard!) It’s not that big of a problem, though; she’s doing fine in class, she says, maintaining an a-minus average.
But Rachel can’t help it. She’s car crazy. Always was, always will be. When she was seven and growing up in New Bedford, much to her mom, Annette’s, chagrin, Rachel chucked her Barbie but kept Barbie’s Corvette, racing it, tinkering with it, pondering the power beneath its hot-pink hood. Later, no surprise, Rachel chose mechanic’s school, enrolling in New Bedford Regional Vocational High School, one of the only girls in her class. She proved a prodigy in high school, finishing twelfth out of a class of five hundred. She so impressed her shop advisors that they entered her in a 2008 regional competition by the organization Skills USA, kind of like an Iron Chef for auto-body workers. She came in first place in both the body-work and paint competitions, then placed second in the national competition.
The national honor earned her a scholarship from NACE (that’s the National Autobody Congress and Exposition), and an opportunity through the Women’s Industry Network to work at a body shop in California for the summer. Success in the garage led her to the classroom. She figures business degree plus mad repair skills plus contacts can equal a golden future: she hopes one day to own her own garage, or to work for one of the big car-paint firms. But she needs to get her business degree first.
Someday, though, she’ll have that Chevelle. She can’t stop dreaming about it. But for now she tools around in a Grand Cherokee sporting a brand-new metallic charcoal paint job (guess who painted it?) going from class to class asked by every friend and family member if she wouldn’t mind taking a look at their problem jalopies (sorry, can’t right now. I’m a full-time student). Ever humble, she wants to shout out to all her shop advisors for helping her become the star she is today. And these days she’s single—no time, she says, for a relationship. But when the right guy comes along he has to—has to—love cars.