BUFFALO, N.Y. -- With every bolt loosened and each part pulled at her auto-mechanic apprenticeship, 17-year-old Abigail Lutz is breaking barriers in more ways than one.
"I love being the 'tommyboy,' quote, unquote," she said. "Getting down and dirty, getting in cars. It's a stereotype. 'Girls can't like dirt, girls can't like cars.' I don't believe that. I believe that girls can love what you do and go for it."
While some are surprised to see her under the hood of a car at Collision Masters in Buffalo, her mother, Kimberely Lutz, is not one of them.
"Since she was like in Pre-K, and they have their moving up ceremony and everybody stands at the podium," Kimberely said. "And some girls are like 'I want to be a princess,' and boys are like 'oh, I want to be a fireman' and my daughter is up there and she goes 'I want to be a race car driver.' I looked at my husband and I just smiled and it was just so proud and so cute. And ever since then it was about going to the track, working on cars, looking at cars, seeing cars."
Abigail is getting paid to work at Collision Masters as part of a new partnership between the Erie One Board of Cooperative Educational Services or BOCES and five Buffalo automotive shops.
The owner of the shop, Frank Todaro, says the idea came about, due to a lack of young applicants.
"What's happening is they're losing the interest in working with their hands," Todaro said. "Such as plumbers, welders, auto-mechanics. We're all having an issue even getting an internship to be interested. So we figured that we could get a head start, get them involved from school, get paid and make sure we can spark their interest."
Abigail says the program is bringing her one step closer to realizing her dream of opening her own shop on day.
As the only female in the program, she adds that she hopes others will inspired regardless of who they are.
"It doesn't matter about gender," Abigail said. "It doesn't matter about that. It matters what you put on you plate and what you show that you can do."
The summer apprenticeship is an addition to BOCE's two-year high school automotive certification program that prepares students to work in a shop straight out of school.