Crashing through barriers: Mariana Garcia takes on the world of collision repair

Mariana Garcia stumbled across her love of cars by accident. Though she didn’t have prior experience in the field, taking vocational automotive classes seemed like a fun way to bypass regular classes. What she didn’t predict: breaking the mold as a Hispanic woman pursuing a career in collision repair.

It hasn’t been an easy road to get where she is today. Mariana works as an estimator with Gerber Collision after spending a few years working in an auto shop at a Ford Dealership in her hometown of Kendallville. In her current role, she acts as a liaison between customers and insurance companies after there’s been an accident.

“A lot of people request a man’s opinion,” she shares. “I run into that a lot, but my manager just backs me up.”

According to DATA USA, the collision repair industry is made up of more than 90% men. While those numbers cause unfair stereotypes for women, Mariana says men face them, too. She believes this can be a career for anyone.

“I would like for more people to see that you don’t have to be that stereotype. I think anyone should do it just cause it’s fun and something great to learn.”

Beyond public opinion, Mariana’s parents also weren’t interested in the idea of their daughter working with cars because it didn’t fit their cultural norms. She says her mother would be embarrassed to tell their family in Mexico about her passion. Mariana took a gap year after high school trying to convince herself to do something else, but her love for the automotive industry won out, and she ended up close to home at Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne.

Mariana joined the Automotive Technology program and specialized in Collision Repair. It’s a hands-on program that allows students to gain experience with the latest technology and builds proficiency in basic automotive maintenance. She says they went through everything from painting to body work. Mariana graduated with an A.A.S. in Automotive Technology in 2017 and was awarded a technical certificate in Auto Body Repair later that year.

Looking back, she’s grateful for the help of professors like Nick Goodnight, assistant department chair of Diesel Technology, Bob Huffman, department chair of Automotive Technology, and Jaron Grayless, former instructor and current manager at Gerber Automotive, who would take the time to sit down with her and other students one-on-one to go over questions they might have had about class material.

After working in the field for a few years, Mariana says what she learned at Ivy Tech prepared her for working in auto body shops, the front office, and could eventually boost her up to management, which is her goal. However, she aspires to be the best at what she’s doing now before she gets to that point, hoping to break the misconceptions some people have about the field.

“Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m accepted. But showing my work ethic and knowledge, I feel like they’re left speechless.”

Today, Mariana has her parents’ support. She says they think what she’s doing is “cool”. She hopes her story will inspire others who are thinking about going into the automotive industry to forget the stereotypes and take the leap. It’s a growing field that’s constantly in demand. To other women who think they might want to pursue a similar career, Mariana offers this advice:

“Be patient, be confident, and be okay with failing.”

Ivy Tech Foundation’s Women in Philanthropy – Circle of Ivy awards more than $260,000 to Campuses

Ivy Tech Foundation’s Women in Philanthropy Circle of Ivy awarded $263,649 to 84 projects at its seventh annual Circle of Ivy Gathering on Friday, November 4. The initiative raises funds to make access to higher education easier for Ivy Tech Community College students. Circle of Ivy has a statewide reach, with a focus specifically on campus needs and projects that positively impact students. 

Several projects from Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne and Warsaw received funding:

  • Helping Hands Emergency Funds (Fort Wayne)- $1,900
  • Rent and Utility Fund (Fort Wayne)- $1,900
  • The Disability Sensory Services Sensory Positive Study Room (Fort Wayne)- $953
  • Coffee with a Professor (Fort Wayne)- $942
  • Helping Hands Emergency Funds (Warsaw)- $3,000
  • Emergency Transportation Funds (Warsaw)- $1,600
  • Basics Bank Supply Pantry (Warsaw)- $1,100
  • Thanksgiving Meal-in-a-Box (Warsaw)- $500

“At Ivy Tech, we believe in a mission that creates resources and breaks down barriers to higher education for our students,” said Dr. Kim Barnett-Johnson, chancellor of Ivy Tech Fort Wayne and Warsaw. “Our local Circle of Ivy chapters have grown from 8 to 70 members since its inception in 2016. It’s encouraging to see this program thrive and witness our students walk better, more accessible paths toward success because of our generous donors.”

The projects funded this year give students easier access to educational opportunities by tackling the issue of food insecurity and providing things like transportation and rent and utility assistance.

“This organization has done so much over the years and continues to provide transformative experiences for Ivy Tech students. When women join together, we are a force for good. We are so proud of all the projects that have been funded by the Circle of Ivy,” said Courtney Roberts, President of the Ivy Tech Foundation.

Since its inception in 2015, Circle of Ivy has grown to more than 1,000 members. In seven years, the members have raised more than $1 million to assist with 384 projects.

To learn more about Circle of Ivy visit

Donation drives Ivy Tech Fort Wayne Diesel Technology students to new opportunities

Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne’s Diesel Technology program has recently received a new PACCAR MX-13 engine from Palmer Trucks, a full-service Kenworth dealership serving Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois, valued up to $40,000 when brand new.

Students in the program take a hands-on approach to the industry, working with new technology and the latest trends in a fast-growing field. Department leaders say this engine will serve as a critical learning tool because it ensures students will have the necessary knowledge of current machinery.

“PACCAR Engines are a leading, quality brand, and are the engine of choice for Kenworth and Peterbilt-brand commercial trucks, which together account for more than 30 percent of the medium and heavy-duty truck market,” says Brad Knipp, service manager of Kenworth of Fort Wayne. “This engine will serve as a learning resource for Ivy Tech students to find meaningful, stable and long-term employment with Fort Wayne mainstays like Palmer Trucks.”

“By utilizing the state of the art, real world components in our curriculum, our graduates are ready to take on any challenge they might meet in the truck repair industry,” says Nick Goodnight, chair of the Diesel Technology program at Ivy Tech Fort Wayne.

Interested in Ivy Tech’s Diesel Technology program? Visit or contact Goodnight at or 260-480-4293.

Jamal Robinson of DESIAR Eyewear wins 2016 New Venture Competition

Jamal Robinson has been named the sixth champion of Ivy Tech Community College Northeast’s New Venture Competition, which took place Thursday evening on Ivy Tech Northeast’s Coliseum Campus. He won $35,000 in capital for his business, DESIAR Eyewear.



Robinson sold his first pair of DESIAR Eyewear in 2012, and he calls 2014 “the game changing year” for the company: That’s when companies like Luxottica (the largest eyewear company in the world), TJX (Europe’s version of TJ Maxx), and The Aldo Group began to carry DESIAR sunglasses.

With the $35,000 he wins from the New Venture Competition, he will launch his Hoosier line of eyewear, which feature wooden frames and are entirely manufactured in Indiana.

He and two other finalists presented their business plans to a room full of community business people, and he says he felt confident during his presentation.

“When it comes to DESIAR, I know DESIAR,” says Robinson, an Ivy Tech Northeast alum who graduated from IPFW with his associate degree in business. “With all that, I felt comfortably prepared. I was confident I did the best I could do.”

Robinson presented his business plan to more than 30 community professionals, who served as judges. The other finalists were Andrew Smittie, of Green E-Waste Miracles, which collects items trash companies won’t pick up like computers and technology and recycles the material; and Guadalupe Callejas, of Metro Striping & More, an interior and exterior painting company. Callejas was also a finalist in last year’s New Venture Competition.

Each finalist presented for 15 minutes. After the presentations, judges were given an additional 15 minutes for a question-and-answer session. The judges had been provided the contestants’ business plans prior to the event.

In its sixth year, the New Venture Competition’s presenting sponsor was Dave and Mary Bear of JB Tool, Die & Engineering Inc., and was also made possible through a grant from the Edward M. and Mary McCrea Wilson Foundation. The awards dinner sponsor was ProFed Federal Credit Union, and the competition was in collaboration with Fort Wayne SCORE.

Learn more about the New Venture Competition at, where you can also watch short videos with Robinson, Smittie, and Callejas. Learn more about studying entrepreneurship at Ivy Tech Northeast at

Jamal Robinson won $35,000 on Thursday night at Ivy Tech Northeast’s 2016 New Venture Competition, in its sixth year. Robinson is the founder of DESIAR Eyewear. From left: James Tolbert, Ivy Tech Northeast business administration assistant professor; Robinson; Doug Wood, PNC Bank regional president; Karen Potter, ProFed Credit Union assistant vice president, commercial services; and Jerrilee K. Mosier, Ivy Tech Northeast chancellor.

Jamal Robinson won $35,000 on Thursday night at Ivy Tech Northeast’s 2016 New Venture Competition, in its sixth year. Robinson is the founder of DESIAR Eyewear. From left: James Tolbert, Ivy Tech Northeast business administration assistant professor; Robinson; Karen Potter, ProFed Credit Union assistant vice president, commercial services; Doug Wood, PNC Bank regional president; and Jerrilee K. Mosier, Ivy Tech Northeast chancellor.

Why are you the ‘I’ in Ivy Tech? Tell us & you could get up to $1k for spring classes

Been in the Student Life Center lately? Maybe you’ve noticed that bright green “vy” statue outside off to the left of the front door.

The statue debuted at graduation in spring 2016

The statue debuted at graduation in spring 2016. Check out the video below to see it in action.

See what’s missing? The “I”!

The statue is an homage to the I in Indy sign, and ours is even made by Ivy Tech Northeast students. Cool, right?

We want to see you serve as the I in Ivy: Have someone take your photo as the I, then share it on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram with the verbiage #IAmTheI because and fill in the blank! Maybe you’re the I in Ivy because you’re finally following your dream. Maybe it’s because after you graduate, you’ll be able to go on and get a four-year degree. Maybe it’s because you love proving to your family that you can do it. Whatever your reason, we want to know!

The #IAmTheI project will run through the end of September. Then, the photos with the most interactions–likes, comments, and shares combined–will get you one of three scholarships, worth $250, $500, and $1,000 for the spring 2017 semester. (Find the full rules and regulations online.)

Not a student? That’s OK–everyone is invited to participate! You might not be eligible for the scholarship, but we want to know why everyone is the I in Ivy.

Good luck, everyone!

College to offer IvyLiving community classes

Beginning fall 2016, Ivy Tech Community College Northeast will offer IvyLiving classes, non-credit enrichment classes geared toward the community. The first IvyLiving course will be Homebrewing 101.


To determine which classes to offer, Aja Michael-Keller, the College’s director of Events, Enrichment, and Conferencing, reviewed similar programs in the region and found areas that could be expanded upon.


“As the number of small and independent craft brewers increases across the country, more and more people are becoming interested in homebrewing,” Michael-Keller says. “IvyLiving is a great way to learn the craft from an expert in the field, and we even provide all your materials.”


Homebrewing 101 will meet from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 24 and Oct. 8 at the CookSpring Shared Kitchen at The Summit, 1025 W. Rudisill Blvd. To learn more and sign up for classes, visit


The second IvyLiving class, to be offered in October, will be Artistic Welding. Registration is not yet open.

Finding a place to belong with G.O.A.L.



Hi, my name is Laura Medina, and I was the summer marketing intern at Ivy Tech Northeast, trying to discover exactly what I want to study in college. As a Latina woman, I was excited to learn about a new program for Latino students at the College, G.O.A.L, y Amigos, or Graduating Outstanding Achieving Latinos and Friends.

The United States is such a diverse country, and its people represent an array of ethnic, cultural, and religious groups. Whether you were born in South America, Europe, the Middle East, or Africa, it’s easy to feel isolated from those born in this country. I am from Colombia, and I think groups like G.O.A.L. are a great way to help minorities feel included. It’s just a small way more first-generation Americans like me are beginning to have our voices heard: academically, athletically, and in many other ways.

It’s super inspirational to see, not to mention extremely impressive. It gives hope to other first-generation kids who have immigrant parents, telling them that they, too, can someday be just as successful in the field of their choice. Organizations like G.O.A.L y amigos provides a support system for not only Latinos but for those of other backgrounds by encouraging them in their studies and personal lives.

Some aren’t so willing to open up and express their ethnic background, however, because they’re afraid of being discriminated. I find it extremely helpful to participate in organizations that advocate or promote diversity, like G.O.A.L.. It is so important that minorities are able to freely express ourselves without the fear of being criticized or judged based on our thoughts. JoAnne Alvarez, creator of G.O.A.L., was once a part of Hispanos Unidos at IPFW, a group with the same mission as G.O.A.L.

“It is important to feel comfortable so, although you are a minority, you won’t feel like one,” she says.

G.O.A.L. y Amigos, the Latino student organization at Ivy Tech Northeast, partnered with American Honors and the Associate Accelerated Program for a Painting with a Twist event back in January in the Blue Bamboo in the Student Life Center.

G.O.A.L. y Amigos, the Latino student organization at Ivy Tech Northeast, partnered with American Honors and the Associate Accelerated Program for a Painting with a Twist event back in January in the Blue Bamboo in the Student Life Center.

Brayan Castillo, a business administration major, is a member of G.O.A.L.

“G.O.A.L y amigos has helped in many ways in my performance in school, as well as in my personal life,” he says. “I have a better sense of purpose on why I am continuing my education with the help and support of our members.”

With the help and support from groups such as G.O.A.L., he is reminded how important the success of his education is which is why he’s so mission oriented and will not settle for anything less.

“We want to break down any stereotypes or barriers to ultimately bring ethnicities together,” Castillo says.

Ohro Zlatanovic, who is studying Criminal Justice, immigrated to the United States from Germany when he was 5, and he says groups like G.O.A.L. are especially valuable.

“I realized how much they help unite and encourage people of all ethnic groups to succeed in all they do, whether it comes to the academic life or even the social life,” he says.

Learn more about G.O.A.L. on its Ivy Life page, where you can join.

Emmy Award winner to give commencement address

Kevin Wall, an Emmy Award-winning producer, activist, and new media entrepreneur, will provide the commencement address at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast’s graduation May 6 at the Memorial Coliseum.



Wall, a Fort Wayne native, is a North Side High School graduate who began producing music event at the Embassy Theatre. He currently lives in Los Angeles and has produced live events including Live 8, a global concert that focused on motivating viewers worldwide to pressure Western governments to take action on African aid and debt relief. His work on Live 8 earned Wall an Emmy Award.

He also produced events including

  • Bob Dylan’s “30th Anniversary Concert Celebration” at Madison Square Garden in New York City
  • Michael Jackson’s “The Dangerous Tour” in Bucharest, Romania
  • “Amnesty International: Human Rights Now”
  • 3 Tenors Live in Concert
  • Specials for Prince, Eric Clapton, and Elton John

Wall pioneered a digital media model that makes entertainment available on all mediums and devices. His company, Control Room, has put together more than 100 TV specials in the last 11 years for musicians including Madonna, Jay Z, and Rihanna.

He also cofounded a global internet consulting firm and Live Earth, worldwide concerts with a message for change. His two decades of investment and consulting for start-ups include social media companies like Facebook, Akamai, Netjet, and new companies in Virtual Reality.

More than 100 baskets for the kids at SCAN

Since 2000, the Alumni Association has collected Easter baskets for SCAN, Stop Child Abuse & Neglect. This year, dozens on campus helped out, bringing in completed Easter baskets, materials to stuff baskets, and cash for basket goodies–all so the kids at SCAN can have a special treat on Easter morning.

Squishy eyeball monsters, reptiles, sand toys, and glow sticks, anyone?

Marketing, which helps the Alumni Association, collected nearly $250 in cash to put together additional baskets. We seriously cleaned out at Dollar General.

Marketing and Communications, which helps the Alumni Association, collected nearly $250 in cash to put together additional baskets. We seriously cleaned out at Dollar General.

It’s carrot bubbles!

It’s carrot bubbles!

Hard at work making sure the SCAN kids get a great basket on Easter morning

Hard at work making sure the SCAN kids get a great basket on Easter morning

A finished basket for a little girl

A finished basket for a little girl

In total, Ivy Tech Northeast will donate 100 baskets to SCAN.

In total, Ivy Tech Northeast will donate more than 100 baskets to SCAN.

THANK YOU to everyone who helped us collect these treats to make sure the SCAN kids have a special Sunday morning.

‘If you lived here your entire life, you probably won’t notice how beautiful it really is’

This semester, Ivy Tech Northeast is hosting two students from Tunisia. Oumeima Hammami and Meriem Ghalleb are studying at Ivy Tech Northeast as part of a scholarship program from the U.S. Department of State. They’ve been on campus since the beginning of the semester, putting them about a quarter of the way through their year-long stay.

Oumeima wrote up a short essay about her stay thus far in Fort Wayne. Be sure to check back next week for a Q&A with Meriem.

* * *

Oumeimi Hammami

Oumeima Hammami

My name is Oumeima Hammami. I’m 20 years old, and I came from Tunisia.

One year ago, I was a second-year student at the Higher School of Telecommunication of Tunis, an engineering school, and I heard about a scholarship to the United States. There were thousands all around Tunisia filling an online application, including our grades, our working and volunteering experiences, all sorts of questions about leadership, our future plans, how we plan to contribute in the Tunisian economy, and much more.

Only 250 students made it through this first step, but the path was still long to go. Then we had to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) test and to sit through an interview with delegates from the Department of State. Mine lasted for about an hour of intensive questions about everything: leadership, leisure, and my perception of life, economy, and even politics.

Tunisia is a north African country on the Mediterranean Sea. Learn about the country in the CIA's World Factbook.

Tunisia is a north African country on the Mediterranean Sea. Learn about the country in the CIA’s World Factbook.

Two months later, I received a congratulation email saying that I made it to the finals and that I got the scholarship! It was an unforgettable moment, so heartwarming, a dream coming true.

The program picked the college for us according to our current field of study, so Indiana wasn’t my choice, but if I got the chance to choose again, it would be my first choice.

The best thing I like about it is how people are nice and friendly, always smiling and open to others. I didn’t have issues to fit in. I’ve been here for two months, and I already have friends that makes me feel like I have known them my entire life. Fort Wayne is probably not one of the most known places in the United States, but for sure it’s the place where you feel home.

And its nature is just outstanding! If you have lived here your entire life, you probably won’t notice how beautiful it really is. Since I grew up in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, I didn’t see much of nature, so every day I walk to school and see all of these pretty views. My soul is happy. And I can’t wait to see the snow. Although many people are complaining about it, I can’t help being excited to see everything so pure and white.

I’m studying for a Java Development Certificate, a CompTIA Networking Certificate and an Access Database Certificate. The academic system is very different in Tunisia. We study with the same people in all of our classes, so socialization is much easier. However here each one has his own schedule and stays in his own bubble.

Once I finish my studies May 2016, I will return to my beloved country and share the knowledge, the experiences, and expertise I have gained in the United States. I will have to finish my senior year at my previous university and begin the journey of looking for a job.