The Auto Tech Program at South San Antonio High School is under the guidance and leadership of a senior foreman, but one you may not expect.
Carmen Hernandez is a senior shop foreman for the Auto Tech 2 class this school year, and she is making history as one of the first female students to be in a leadership position in the program.
“It’s an honor because knowing that I’m one of the first and not one of the last makes me proud,” Hernandez said. “Knowing that I had enough motivation to do this myself, makes me feel like I have an influence on those who come after me.”
Hernandez got a delayed start in the program due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After quarantine, I realized, I want to do something that’ll make me happy. I want to feel like I have something to look forward to,” Hernandez stated. “Being able to join in after quarantine and having that connection with the previous class, that entire dynamic was really nice and it influences me now on how I work together with my classmates.”
She credits that realization for bringing her the motivation to pursue the Auto Tech Program regardless of what others thought.
“It’s given me a lot of confidence…being a girl doesn’t disqualify me from doing anything, so it makes me feel like I have an upper hand. I get excited knowing that maybe I’m stepping on someone’s toes who doesn’t want to see me rise to the top.”
Leadership hasn’t come easy for Hernandez, as she is part of an upbringing that did not lend itself to it.
“I’m the baby out of seven children, so it’s hectic. Being in a place of leadership is really nice, considering I’ve never had that before. I’m still trying to work my way out of that mindset, it’s been a hassle, but I’m enjoying the process,” exclaimed Hernandez.
She enjoys the tasks that she is assigned by her instructor, Mr. Michael Sanchez.
“Not only am I in charge of looking after myself, but I look out for everyone in my classroom. I do have other managers that help me out, I talk to them and get together to assign each other to do different things. Sometimes, if I work one-on-one with someone, they can help me out with other things.”
Her classmates have been supportive of her since taking the role earlier this year, and she’s hopeful to continue that as she progresses in her position.
“I don’t think they’re anything less than supportive, and if they were, we’d probably talk it out…being in the shop, it allowed us to get out of our shells and working together as a group made us bond.”
Even outside of the classroom or auto shop, she enjoys learning more about other types of automobiles.
“I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, and even when I’m with friends, it’s usually around automobiles. Sometimes I like to work on dirt bikes, that’s something new I’m learning, and it still kind of relates to what I’m learning in class.”
She has plans to pursue a college education and a career in the field.
“I’m actually going to become an aeronautical technician, working on airplanes. I plan on attending Hallmark University, and I won’t stop until I feel like I’m in a good enough spot in my life where I can retire.”
Hernandez has advice for other girls interested in the auto tech program at South San HS.
“It’s totally fine to be afraid in the beginning, and it’s never a bad thing to still be afraid, it’s just part of going through the motions. You’re going to have tough times, but it’s more about perseverance, having support and working smoothly with colleagues…and knowing even in those tough times, there will be better things to come.”