MARIETTA— For as long as she can remember, Washington State Community College’s Student of the Month Emmy Flowers has been working on cars. In pursuit of a degree in automotive technology, she uses the attention she garners as a female mechanic to dispel the stigma that the garage is just for men.
Gender was never a barrier in the Flowers’ household when it came to working on a car. Her dad admitted that he really wanted his firstborn to be a boy, “but he got me,” she laughed. In fact, Flowers said one of her earliest memories is being three years old and helping her dad work on his 1967 Chevelle. “At that point, I was just the flashlight holder, but I had my own little plastic tool set.”
By the age of 8, Flowers was racing in the Junior Drag Racing League (JDRL). Keeping her racer running at peak performance required lots of work, and Flowers was always up to her elbows in the grease. “When things weren’t working right, [my dad] would make me help him figure it out.”
She recalled one particular test and tune event when at 9 years old she garnered some attention because of her gender. It was her second lap around the track when suddenly her steering wheel detached which resulted in a crash. The announcer yelled, “That’s how you do it boys. And look, it’s a girl!” Ultimately, her incredible racing skills earned her a ranking of 8th place in the league by the time she was just 11 years old.
“What can I say? I’m very competitive. I’m a woman who wants to be better than the guys at their ‘sport’,” confessed Flowers.
Extenuating circumstances forced her to leave the sport of drag racing, but that didn’t diminish her interest in working on cars. The 26-year-old single mom explained that there’s always a friend’s vehicle parked in her driveway that needs fixed. And just like her dad, she has her 5-year-old boy, Declan, under the hood alongside her.
Last fall, when her son was old enough to enroll in preschool, she saw it as an opportunity to earn a degree that would validate and expand her skills. The decision hasn’t come without challenges like scheduling, juggling school and work, childcare, and, sadly, naysayers.
“Nobody believes that this is actually a career that some women truly want. That doesn’t make this an easy role to pursue.” However, Flowers is quick to add, “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”
Her advice to others with similar backgrounds to hers is simple. “Just do it. Single moms, mid-twenty-somethings who haven’t ever really had a plan, those who live paycheck to paycheck, even if it seems impossible to go to college; do it. Apply for grants, scholarships, financial aid, and take a risk. If you’re passionate about a certain field, go follow your dreams. Honestly, if not now, when?”
Currently finishing the first half of her associate degree, Flowers said she wants to open her own automotive repair shop after she graduates next spring. “It’s always been my life’s dream to own a shop that people, especially women, can rely on.”