Joette Masters ‘14 is a girl who loves to fix cars. Being a female in a non-traditional program at Johnson College is what helped Joette get noticed by a group of women who started out just like her and now own their own dealerships with the nation’s largest auto manufacturer, General Motors.
Joette has always loved cars. “Growing up my father was a mechanic, so I was always learning about it and always around it,” Joette says. Joette’s father never owned his own auto mechanic shop, but always worked for one. At home, he also worked on vehicles. Joette says, “I was his little tool getter!” Joette was the middle child with an older sister and younger brother. “He wanted my younger brother to be an auto mechanic,” says Joette. However, it wasn’t long before he realized that she was the only one who took interest in his work. “He didn’t treat me any different, he was excited for me!” Joette’s father died when she was 15, but she knows that he would have been proud of where she is today.
After high school, Joette started looking at colleges and knew a number of successful graduates of Johnson College. Joette says, “They all had jobs immediately after graduating and they said they learned a lot and they said it was well worth going there, so I decided to try it out!” Joette loves the small class sizes Johnson College offers. “They’re more hands on, there’s more communication with the teacher and you have little groups,” she explains.
Mark Kozemko ‘79 is Joette’s instructor in the automotive technology program at Johnson College. “Joette is an exemplary student. She’s top in her class!” Mr. Kozemko loves Joette’s hard working attitude. “She does what everyone else does and more.” Mr. Kozemko doesn’t see too many females in the automotive field. He estimates there are a hundred males to one female. “There’s not that many females out there and the ones that are out there are good!” Joette is no exception.
Mark Kozemko, who just started working at Johnson College in August of last year, has been working on building relationships with local businesses. Back in January, one of the many places Mark visited in person was SUN Buick GMC in Moosic where he met with the owner, Lori Guitson.
Ms. Guitson serves as the Co-Chair for the General Motors Women’s Retail Initiative Program, the same program that helped her buy the SUN Buick GMC dealership nearly 10 years ago. The timing of Mr. Kozemko’s visit was perfect. Mr. Guitson had flyers for the group’s scholarship program that honors women who want to stay and grow in the automotive field. “We give out between $20-25,000 a year,” Ms. Guitson explains. Over the past 3 years, The GM Women’s Retail Initiative has chosen up to six students nationwide to win scholarships. Ms. Guitson says each year hundreds of applications are received, which are then narrowed down to 20 finalists before the group choses the winners.
Mr. Kozemko took the flyers back to his shop where a fellow classmate quickly said to Joette, the only girl in the class, that she should go for it. “WHY NOT?” Joette said. She submitted the long application soon after. A few months passed before Joette got a call from Ms. Guitson telling her the exciting news that she was one of 6 selected. Joette was awarded a $3,000 scholarship.
As part of the award, Joette received a trip to Detroit where she was presented the check from the group, which was given to her by Ms. Guitson. Joette came in second place among the award winners. The first place winner was an impressive non-traditional student just like her. Joette says, “She was in her 50’s and had spent 20 some years in the Army doing repair, but couldn’t move up any higher. So she decided to change career paths and go back to college at a 2-year program to get her degree in automotive repair.” The trip gave Joette a chance to talk with both owners and technicians just like her about her plans for the future.
The GM Women’s Retail Initiative Group continues to grow. Ms. Guitson says, “Right now we have 270 women dealers out of 4,700 dealers.” She believes that Joette can easily get a job as a tech in a dealership if she wants to when she graduates.“I have a woman service advisor, I have two women sales consultants. I would love to have a woman tech.” Right now, Joette is working towards the same goal, “I either want to get a job right away in a dealership as a technician or go back to school and specialize in motors or transmissions.” Ms. Guitson says the future is bright for all graduates. “In time the career path can lead to being a service manager.” Now Ms. Guitson hopes that after this Joette will set her goals even higher, “Maybe someday she’ll want to become a dealer!”
WATCH JOETTE’S STORY HERE