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UMass Dartmouth Freshman Rachel Fonseca is National Autobody Repair Silver Medalist

Determination, persistence and self-motivation are traits repeatedly cited by former teachers when describing Rachel Fonseca, a freshman at UMass Dartmouth majoring in business.

Determination, persistence and self-motivation are traits repeatedly cited by former teachers when describing Rachel Fonseca, a freshman at UMass Dartmouth majoring in business.

These qualities helped Fonseca, a 2008 graduate of Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, place second in the SkillsUSA national competition in the collision repair category. Her placement made her the highest ranking female in the contest.

Ever since she can remember, Fonseca has loved working on cars. Voke-Tech teacher and advisor  David  Pacheco recalls meeting her as a freshman. "She walked in and told me, `I want to build motorcycles.' I was skeptical but she, of course, ended up being my go-to person when I needed to get the job done correctly. She's unbelievable!"

Majoring in collision repair technology, Fonseca was the only female in the shop and one of only two girls to win the state title and advance to the national SkillsUSA competition held this past summer in Kansas City, Missouri. .

The contest involved written tests, a job interview, and hands-on metal work,  welding, framework and plaster repair and more. "All of it is fun," Fonseca said. "It's so exciting to take a flat piece of metal and make it into something. And it is great to take something that was once rusty and sitting in a barn and restore it into a car that ends up winning an auto show."

Her success led to honors by the Women's Industry Network, which sponsored a November trip to the International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE) in Las Vegas, Nevada.  

The opportunity to participate in the event, which attracted an audience of more than 20,000 people and nearly 400 exhibitors, was "awesome," according to Fonseca, and "a real treat," for both herself and two instructors.

On behalf of Akzo Nobel, a paint company, Fonseca presented a check to the director of the I-Car Foundation to fund next year's Most Influential Woman of the Collision Repair Industry Scholarship. She was the 2007 recipient of that award.

In addition, Fonseca met Chip Foose, a prominent automotive designer and star of the TLC show, "Overhaulin'."  

Now immersed in business studies at UMass Dartmouth, she hopes to one day own an auto body shop or  product or paint company. "I want to stay in the automotive industry without getting my hands dirty, so to speak." In addition to playing on the university's softball team, Fonseca has a part-time job at an ice rink and is teaching collision repair in the adult education program at Voke-Tech High.

With students ranging in age from 18 to 70 plus, she admits that some regard her youth with a skeptical eye. "It's really cool to take what I've learned and pass it on to someone else. Most of the students test me out but when they realize I know what I'm talking about, then it's okay. They say, `show me.' When they do a good job and show the (other) instructor, that means I've done a good job too."

Those who know her agree that her talents are extraordinary.

"From the moment I met her, I knew she was a special, outstanding student. She never shied away from hard work and this industry needs more people like her," said her Voc-Tech instructor Serafin Cabral.

"Teaching her is not so much as her being a student as it is her being a partner in her own educational paths," said Raymond Guilbert, another Voc-Tech teacher. "She makes what is typically difficult for most students look easy. She doesn't raise the bar, she smashes it to pieces."
 

Author:  "John Hoey"
Date:  29-Jan-2009
Department:   University Relations

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http://www.umassd.edu/communications/articles/showarticles.cfm?a_key=2553