Diesel major has drive to pass

Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2003

LEVELLAND, Texas Rebecca Funk knew nothing about diesel-powered vehicles when she entered South Plain College's automotive program two years ago.

But Funk, 25, had a more important obstacle to overcome than being the only woman diesel-service-technology major of the 42 students in the program. After her daughter died two years ago, Funk decided her only options were to do something constructive or self-destructive.

"The work I knew would be hard, but dealing with the guys is even harder," she said. "I keep looking over my shoulder. For a while they were pretty hard on me, but they have eased up a bit."

She approaches her work area every day to see if her male classmates have Super Glued or duct taped her toolbox shut or shoved towels down the engine's intake.

"Every day, I hope there is not something dead in my toolbox," she said.

Her instructor, Tony Ortiz, said Funk and one other woman have been in the diesel program during his 10 years as an associate professor.

"It's not any harder for women than anybody else," he said. "It is the simple fact of wanting to do it. Strength has nothing to do with it. It is all mental, and one person has as much mental capacity as the next person."

Funk is not only involved in her field of study, but she is also the president of the Skills USA club, belongs to the Diesel Club and is an officers in other organizations. Any free time left, she spends with her 6-month-old son.

When she graduates in May 2004, she wants to work in the field and build enough experience and reputation to successfully open her own shop. After working in the shop and classroom, this is the semester where the acquired knowledge is applied, he said.

"It takes really precise measurements and adjustments," Ortiz said. "This is by no means easy."

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