She earned an advanced technical certificate in Automotive Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology from ISU’s College of Technology. Although few women pursue that career track, Abigail said it’s a perfect fit for her.
“I’ve always been really artsy. I like painting and working with my hands,” she said. “I cannot sit behind a desk. I’m not that kind of person.”
Abigail is the daughter of Teena Rhoads, who chairs General Education in the College of Technology, and both agree they are quite different in their personalities.
Abigail says she was always covered in Bondo dust when she would visit her mom, who she considers to be respectable and polished, at work.
Teena said her business clothes regularly got covered in dust when her daughter — who doesn’t mind digging in and getting dirty — would hug her on those visits. But she didn’t really seem to mind.
“I am so proud of her,” Teena said, adding that the faculty came to respect Abigail on her own merits over the last two years and they encouraged her in her abilities. “It’s amazing the accomplishments she’s done in the program.”
Teena, who is also involved in the College of Technology’s Center for New Directions, which offers career counseling for students pursuing nontraditional occupations among other services, actually encouraged Abigail to give the program a try.
She says nontraditional programs often have great career ladders, pay well and need people who can pay attention to detail.
“Women are really good at the little details,” she said.
Abigail decided to take a tour after her mother and some other women going through the program talked to her about it. She was soon hooked.
“My decision ended up being a snap decision, (but it was) one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” she said.
The work gives Abigail a chance to use her artistic skills. Plus she enjoys the physical aspects and the ever-changing challenges that come with making a damaged car look new again. She especially looks forward to the painting process.
Abigail says it sometimes takes a thick skin to pursue a nontraditional career track. But she’s worked in construction before, which has given her some advantages.
“You have to keep your head up and know when to ask for help,” she said.
And it didn’t hurt that she could “mouth off just as much as the boys could,” she said.
Abigail also had a lot of support from her mom and others while she was going through the program.
“She’s been one of my biggest cheerleaders,” Abigail said, adding that her father, Stephen Rhoads, and fiance, Matt Williams, were right there cheering her on, too.
Although Abigail is just graduating, she’s already working in the field. She has a job with Jack’s Auto Body, a local company where she preps vehicles and helps with some of the painting.
Although she hopes to open her own business one day, she wants to stay at Jack’s and learn as much as she can for now.
“I couldn’t have asked for better people to work with and for,” she said.
As to others interested in pursuing nontraditional career paths, Abigail encourages them to go for their dreams.
“Don’t ever give up,” she said.
We would like to thank Idaho State Journal for reprint permission.