Zoey White (pictured above) was four classes away from completing her animation degree at College of the Canyons when she decided to switch gears.
“I was going through a lot of personal troubles trying to figure myself out, my true wants and needs,” White said. “I had a small bit of motivation, but was highly lacking in direction.”
Although White had always enjoyed art, she realized that animation wasn’t the right path for her after all.
“My art blossomed more when I could draw at my own leisure,” said White. “I realized it was more of a hobby than a lifestyle or career.”
White chose automotive technology because she grew up watching her mother work on her own car, teaching herself how to fix certain things to save money.
“That motivated me in a way I never imagined and sparked an interest in me like I hadn’t had before,” White said. “The more I watched her and had people tell me it was something I couldn’t or shouldn’t do, the more I was determined to do it.”
White’s resolve was further emboldened by the reaction she got from a man who watched her add coolant to her car in between classes. Despite White’s polite refusal for help, the man persisted and kept asking her if she knew where the fluids went, how much to pour, and if she knew what she was doing.
White ignored him and continued working on her car.
“He stayed and watched me until I was practically done and for some reason it bothered me,” White said. “I realized I wanted to know more. I wanted to make more people look like he did when he realized I truly wasn’t clueless. I wanted to surprise more people. I wanted to do something not many women want or even think about doing. I wanted to be a mechanic.”
Determined to move back to her home state of Illinois with a degree in hand, White threw herself into her automotive technology studies. Because she had completed all of her general education classes, White finished her degree coursework in three semesters.
“COC was the means to my success by putting the opportunity in front of me and making things available to me rather than helping me pursue my goals,” White said. “My family was more of my pusher and motivation in those terms because my goals became finishing school, getting out on my own, getting a steady and good job, and furthering my education down the road when I can afford to do so.”
White really enjoyed the safe and kind atmosphere created by her classmates and automotive technology instructors, specifically Gary Sornborger and Kimberly Night, who made a lasting impression on her.
“She was always pushing me to do more and be more independent and to see a strong female figure succeeding in the automotive field helped me see a realistic goal for myself,” White said. “If she did it, I could do it too.”
Night says she is impressed with White’s determination and professional development.
“I am beyond proud of Zoey and how far she has gone from the person she was when she first came to our department to who she is now,” Night said. “I am so happy to have been a part of it.”
White also credits Sornborger as a big motivator who helped her establish the short-term goals that would lead her to the field and specific job title that she wanted.
“When I saw an opening for my current job it was almost like I could hear him telling me, ‘Yes, it’s not directly in the automotive field, but it will help you gather contacts and get you closer to your goal,’”White said.
Sornborger, who is chair of the college’s automotive technology department, described White as a wonderful student who will be a great asset to the industry.
“It is refreshing to see the gender gap closing because we desperately need women in the automotive industry,” Sornborger said.
After finishing her studies at COC, White was finally prepared to strike out on her own. She now lives in Sullivan, IL and works for Hydro-Gear, a leading manufacturer of precision drive solutions that makes transmissions for companies such as John Deere.
“Getting a degree kind of motivated me to want more and made me realize I was more capable than I had previously realized,” said White, who will be crossing the college’s commencement stage on Friday, May 31 to receive her associate degree in automotive technology.
For students who may be feeling lost or confused about their path as she once was, White has some advice.
“I would tell them not to give up because the path we are destined for is not always clear and easy to understand,” White said. “It will not always be easy, but when you achieve what you were meant for it will all be worth it. A popular quote I like comes to mind, ‘Not all those who wander are lost.’”