Takeshia Carter has always loved cars. Growing up, she built model cars and walked around with small car parts in her pocket. But she wasn’t sure she would be able to make automotive collision repair her career.

“For my whole life, they told me women don’t do that,” Takeshia said.

Still, collision repair came naturally to her—and after years of working in other industries, Takeshia decided to follow her passion. With support from her mom, she began taking courses at Harold Washington College, Kennedy-King College, and Olive-Harvey College to earn her Associate in General Sciences (AGS), and she studied automotive collision repair at Kennedy-King College.

Takeshia took her first car apart at 33 years old, a 2010 Nissan Altima. While it was what she always wanted, she was still a little nervous about starting something new.

“At first, I was terrified,” she said. “I was intimidated by all the machinery, all the tools, and the fact that all the cars were much bigger than me.”

But Takeshia quickly put those feelings aside and enthusiastically jumped into this new world with the help of her instructors at Kennedy-King, especially Kenneth McMillian.

“He’s an inspiration, he’s a motivator, and he’s a mentor. He’s the reason I’m in the AGS program,” said Takeshia. “He’s gone to bat for me so many times. He’s written letters of recommendation and provided extra teaching and tips of the trade.”

Takeshia isn’t just invested in her own success, but the success of her peers, too. She serves as the student spokesperson for the Automotive Collision Repair Program at Kennedy-King, and she’s the president and founder of Street Dreams Automotive Club at the college. Takeshia recruited her classmates to help them hone their automotive collision repair skills and promote the school.

To help fund her education at City Colleges, Takeshia is a part of the PepsiCo Foundation’s Uplift Scholars program, which allows her to focus on her studies by covering the cost of her tuition, books, and other fees. The scholarship program is designed to support Black, Hispanic, or Latinx students in high-demand fields, and it offers recipients like Takeshia additional tutoring and workplace learning opportunities.

Takeshia’s also received scholarships from the Women’s Industry Network, which specifically supports women in the field of collision repair, the University of Aftermarket Foundation, and ICAR. Additionally, she was honored by the Specialty Equipment Market Association or SEMA in 2021 at the organization’s invite-only industry event. She served as a panelist at the event in 2019.

When Takeshia completes her program in the spring of 2023, she wants to eventually work for herself, but she’s had offers from major companies. Takeshia is currently a body shop technician at Penske.

“No matter what is going on in the world, there’s one thing most people refuse to live without if they have it, and that’s their car,” she said. “They will do anything to have that mobility, and that means I’m essential for a lifetime… If I know how it works, I can fix it. That’s something that’s very valuable to me.”

Wherever her future takes her, Takeshia feels ready to excel in her field because of her passion, drive, determination, and the support and guidance she’s received from instructors at City Colleges. With their help, she says she’s prepared for whatever the world brings her way.