Girl earns spot in USASkills state auto competition

March 1, 2017

For the first time, a girl is one of five students to represent Region 1 in automotive technology at the SkillsUSA competition in April in Indianapolis.

Cheyenne Stevens, 18, a Calumet New Tech High School senior, is one of five students from Region 1 who will compete downstate.

The automotive technology event is part of the SkillsUSA Championships, which are competitive events showcasing the best career and technical education students in the nation. Contests begin locally and continue through state and national levels.

Enrolled at the Hammond Area Career Center, Cheyenne is in her second year in the automotive technology program. She also has worked for more than a year as a service adviser in a paid internship at Bosak Honda in Highland. She works five days a week, including Saturday.

Automotive technology teacher Bruce Crossett said the regional competition this year took place Feb. 11 in Elkhart and four schools competed from Michigan City, Knox, Hammond and Elkhart.

“During the competition, (the students) are divided into two groups and one group will take a 150-question exam, which is very difficult, and the other group goes through actual hands-on testing in the shop at 11 different stations,” Crossett said.

“This takes about two hours. Then the groups switch. At the end, scores are tabulated and the top five finishers advance to the state competition.”

Cheyenne came in at fifth place, qualifying for state.

“Only the first-place finisher (at state) will advance to the national competition. We generally have one or two students who qualify for state but this is the first time ever a female student has qualified from our region,” Crossett said.

Cheyenne said she’s excited, and her dad, George Stevens, who has worked in the automotive/diesel technology industry for many years, is her biggest supporter.

She has played basketball since she was in elementary school, and while she had planned to be an athletic trainer, she loves being under the hood of a car.

On her way to good-paying career

“I’ve always been really interested in cars,” she said. “When I first visited the career center, I liked it a lot. We had a dyno, something that tests the horsepower of a car at the career center. I thought that was great. I love classic cars and old cars.”

Cheyenne said she works with her father in his shop, studies the books in her classroom and participates in every hands-on activity to learn as much as she can about cars.

“I scored about average on the test, but I really did well on the hands-on portion,” she said.

Crossett said his students have traditionally done well after graduation obtaining jobs in the area, including one who started as an intern at a dealership in Chesterton and now earns more than $50,000 a year.

Bosak service manager Shawn Haugh said Cheyenne is responsible for greeting customers and listening to their concerns, relaying it to the service desk, then closing out the ticket.

“She’s doing very well,” he said.

“We have other women who work in that department. We think it’s awesome that she’s going to the state competition, and she’s the first girl to do that in a male-dominated career field. I think Mr. Crossett is doing a great job with the students. We’ve had other students who have been hired on and become technicians. It’s a really good program.”

Crossett said, “That’s what every employer is looking for — great attendance and great attitude.”

At the Hammond Area Career Center, the students are from Calumet New Tech High School, School City of Hammond, Munster High School, Lake Central High School, Whiting High School, Highland High School, Griffith High School and Edison Jr-Sr High Schools.

Porter County Career Center Principal/Director Jon Groth said the career center offers automotive technology but has not routinely competed in that competition. He said the career center has four girls enrolled in the class this year.

“Increasing female enrollment in auto is a major initiative of ours,” he said. “On our website, we have short videos on the homepage, which are aimed at helping us recruit females into auto, manufacturing, construction and welding.”