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CVTC camp introduces girls to auto body repair

From left, CVTC auto collision repair and refinish program student Leann Rafferty of Lublin demonstrates a sanding technique to high school students Aliyah Loofboro of Colfax and Hope Bander and Kate Gadient of Pepin during a one-day camp June 23 in which girls could explore the male-dominated field. Each of the camp attendees repaired a dent, smoothed the panel with sanding, primed and painted the panel. Photo courtesy of CVTC1 / 3
Colfax High School freshman Aliyah Loofboro continues to work on sanding an auto panel as instructor Terry Taylor demonstrates and describes the technique during the Auto Collision – for Girls camp at CVTC June 23. Photo courtesy of CVTC2 / 3
Pepin High School friends Hope Bander, left, and Kate Gadient prepare to sand their auto panels while instructor Terry Taylor looks on at the Auto Collision – for Girls camp at CVTC June 23. The camp introduced the girls to the nontraditional occupation of auto body repair. Photo courtesy of CVTC3 / 3

EAU CLAIRE — Leann Rafferty has dreams of her artwork decorating the bodies of cars and vans, but realizes she first has to learn more about repairing and finishing the bodies of motor vehicles. Now the 2016 Gilman High School graduate is the only female in the Auto Collision Repair and Refinish program at Chippewa Valley Technical College.

It's not unusual for a female in the program to be the only one, but that's something CVTC would like to change through ongoing efforts to attract women into nontraditional occupations. On June 23, a one-day camp called "Exploration of Auto Collision — for Girls" was designed to show young women that they can do auto body work and do it well.

Rafferty was a good fit to assist instructor Terry Taylor in working with the girls who attended.

"I want to do custom airbrushing, the hot rod type of paint jobs," Rafferty said. "I really like the painting part."

The girls attending the camp were of a like mind, having more of an interest in art than in autos.

"I'm an artist; I paint a lot," said Hope Bander of Pepin, whose brother, Derek, is in the CVTC program. "I thought this would be fun and interesting."

Bander, a Pepin High School junior, brought a friend with her, Kate Gadient, a Pepin senior.

"When Hope asked me, I was like, 'sure, I'll go,'" Gadient said. "I did some shop classes in high school and liked them, but didn't do anything like this. And Derek was saying that Terry is a really good teacher, so I thought it would be fun to see."

Aliyah Loofboro, a freshman from Colfax, is also interested in the art part of the work. "I love painting and doing art," she said. "My stepmom told be about this camp and thought I would like it. I was very excited about it. It's something I've never tried."

At the camp, the girls were provided with a simple auto body panel with a dent in it. They learned how to fill and smooth out the dent through a sanding process, use primers, and paint and finish the panel.

"They are all doing very well," Taylor said. "We always have some girls in the program, but not a lot. It has to do with career paths, but we are getting more and more all the time and they do a great job."

None of the girls enrolled in the camp pictured herself pursuing a career in auto body repair, but they were all glad to have the experience.

"Filling in the dent was kind of cool," said Loofboro. "But I would like to do something related to art."

"I don't know why more women don't want to do this," said Rafferty, who lives near the tiny Taylor County community of Lublin. "I think it's fun."

Loofboro expects that she will work in a body shop when she finishes the CVTC program, and perhaps get into doing some airbrushing body work on the side as she moves her career in that direction. She knows that she's likely to be the only female in any body shop she works in, but she hasn't had a problem as the lone representative of her gender in the CVTC program.

"I usually get along well with men," she said.

When Taylor asked her to help at the camp, she was anxious to volunteer. "I think it's cool that more women are trying to get into this," she said.