(HARLINGEN, Texas) – A typical day for Jose Villarreal includes hopping into his car and hoping he has enough money for gas to drive 45 minutes every day from Pharr to Texas State Technical College for class, but Tuesday was anything but normal for the 22-year-old.
Villarreal and four other TSTC Auto Collision and Management Technology students were awarded Sears Craftsman toolkits valued at $360 through a grant awarded by the Collision Repair Education Foundation and Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR).
“This was a great surprise,” said Villarreal. “There was no way I would have ever been able to afford something like this; I make just enough for tuition and gas, so this is a huge help.”
Villarreal said he has wanted to work in this field since helping his grandfather refurbish and maintain cars as a child.
“With graduation in August, this toolkit came at the right time. It will help me finish the semester strong and hit the ground running when I enter the workforce,” he said. “And I’m glad to still be able to share all of this with my grandfather.”
Villarreal, along with Andy Mendoza, Marco Castro, Brandon Martinez and Leonardo Lozano, who were also awarded toolkits, had applied for this tool grant last semester, and all agreed they had given up hope.
“So much time had passed since submitting my application; I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore,” said Mendoza. “I didn’t think I had received one, but now that I have, it’s a relief because this is going to take me far and has a huge impact on my future career.”
TSTC Auto Collision and Management lead instructor Jose Vasquez said these toolkits are motivators and an important part of a student and graduate’s success.
“Many times students are unable to afford these kits on a student budget,” he said. “And it can take a while before they can afford a full set, but now these five students have a leg up in the industry because of these kits, which was no easy task to apply for.”
To be considered for one of the Sears Craftsman Tool Kits the students had to complete an application, write an essay and collect auto collision shop recommendations by visiting industry professionals, conducting interviews and submitting the shop’s recommendation.
“It took a lot of effort and time on our students’ part and I’m proud that despite everything, they persevered,” said Vasquez. “And thank you to I-CAR and the Collision Repair Education Foundation for their continued support of our students and program.”
In addition to the toolkits, the Collision Repair Education Foundation and I-CAR also donated 14 Toyota Highlander back doors that will be used for training purposes in areas such as refinishing, corrosion, dent repair and painting.
Each back door is worth at least $600, a price tag that Vasquez calls a big investment for the program’s future.
“These back door donations will allow us to continue giving our students real-world, hands-on training so they’re well-rounded and highly-skilled when they enter the workforce,” he said. “This will impact our program and its students for years to come.”
The Collision Repair and Education Foundation and I-CAR annually donate essential parts, supplies and equipment to the program and have award grants to assist and support TSTC Auto Collision and Management Technology students in their journey toward a successful career in the industry.
Auto Collision and Management Technology is also offered at TSTC’s Waco campus. For more information on the program or to register for Fall 2019, visit tstc.edu.