A typical day for Jose Villarreal includes hopping into his car and hoping he has enough money for gas to drive 45 minutes every day from Pharr, Texas, to Texas State Technical College for class, but Tuesday, June 4 was anything but normal for the 22-year-old student.
Villarreal and four other TSTC Auto Collision and Management Technology students were awarded Sears Craftsman toolkits valued at $360 through a grant awarded by the Collision Repair Education Foundation and Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR).
“This was a great surprise,” said Villarreal. “There was no way I would have ever been able to afford something like this; I make just enough for tuition and gas, so this is a huge help.”
Villarreal said he has wanted to work in this field since helping his grandfather refurbish and maintain cars as a child.
“With graduation in August, this toolkit came at the right time. It will help me finish the semester strong and hit the ground running when I enter the workforce,” he said. “And I’m glad to still be able to share all of this with my grandfather.”
Villarreal, along with Andy Mendoza, Marco Castro, Brandon Martinez and Leonardo Lozano, who were also awarded toolkits, had applied for this tool grant last semester and all agreed they had given up hope.
“So much time had passed since submitting my application; I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore,” said Mendoza. “I didn’t think I had received one, but now that I have, it’s a relief because this is going to take me far and have a huge impact on my future career.”
Jose Vasquez, TSTC Auto Collision and Management lead instructor, said these toolkits are motivators and an important part of a student’s success.
“Many times students are unable to afford these kits on a student budget,” he said. “It can take a while before they can afford a full set. Now, these five students have a leg up in the industry because of these kits.”
Students had to complete an application, write an essay and collect auto collision shop recommendations by visiting industry professionals, conducting interviews and submitting the shop’s recommendation to be considered for a toolkit.