(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Repairing dents, dings and scratches is almost child’s play for Stephanie Luna, a student in Texas State Technical College’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program in Harlingen. She also works at Hacienda Collision Center in Brownsville.
Luna comes by her passion for auto restoration naturally. From a young age, she enjoyed watching her father restore automobile engines. As a student at Lasara High School, she took an auto collision dual enrollment class.
“I learned the process of prepping and preparing an automobile for body work and to be painted,” she said of the class.
Now Luna is gaining additional experience as a prepper at Hacienda Collision Center while also studying at TSTC for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Auto Collision and Management Technology – Refinishing Specialization.
She said her experience at Hacienda Collision Center has been worthwhile.
“I was excited but scared when I first started the job,” she said. “I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do the job correctly that I was assigned. I was overthinking many things. Another painter in the production shop said that he would guide me, and he did. Now I have great confidence in my work.”
Tony Pena, store manager for Hacienda Collision Center, said Luna has contributed in a dual role since she was hired four months ago.
“Stephanie is helping as one of our preppers while also being trained to become a painter,” Pena said. “She’s doing a fantastic job by balancing both sides of her job duties. Her passion for the job is evident. She’s receptive to directions, follows through, and her eagerness to learn has played a vital role in her performance.”
Luna credits her job success to her training at TSTC.
“My instructors’ suggestions for painting and prepping vehicles have improved my skills,” she said. “I understand that following procedures is important during the rebuilding process. If that process isn’t followed, there will be a delay. Most importantly, make sure that your work area is safe. We are exposed to chemicals, and that can possibly lead to health issues.”
She said her favorite assignment at TSTC was when she worked with a frame machine, which helps to restore a vehicle to its original shape after an accident has damaged the framework.
“I brought my pickup truck into our lab area to have the frame fixed,” Luna said. “One of my instructors, (Jesus) Reyna, helped me out because I’d never worked with that machine. We went through the process, and it looked great after we finished.”
Raymundo Leija, a TSTC Auto Collision and Management Technology instructor, said he is impressed by Luna.
“She listens and applies my directions,” he said. “Her determination is why she’s doing great at Hacienda Collision.”
According to onetonline.org, automotive body and related repairers in Texas earn an average of $46,270 a year. The website projected that there would be a 14% increase in the number of such jobs in the state from 2020 to 2030.
TSTC offers Associate of Applied Science degrees in Auto Collision and Management Technology with refinishing and repair specializations at its Harlingen and Waco campuses. Certificate options also are available.
Registration for TSTC’s fall semester is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.