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Shelby Lukes Loves Horses, Dogs and…Fixing Cars

Shelby Lukes Loves Horses, Dogs and…Fixing Cars

Shelby Lukes is passionate about fostering Labrador Retrievers, taking care of horses, and fixing cars.

Raised in Prince William County, as the only child of a career fire fighter and a website designer, she was homeschooled through high school. The family moved to Stafford in 2018, and Shelby took some dual enrollment classes through NOVA her senior year with the goal of becoming a fire and arson investigator. After high school and a semester at a four-year school, however, she decided that career path was not for her.

Having fostered over 20 Labrador Retrievers in nine years and permanently adopting two of those, Shelby currently has four dogs. She has also raised service dogs for veterans through Semper K9 Assistance Dogs. She grew up riding horses competitively and now owns four. And, keeping the family tradition alive, she works as an EMT with the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department, the third generation in her family to work at that firehouse.

Shelby has had a fascination with cars since she was a tot. She went to her first NASCAR race at five and, in the spring of 2021, at 17, she bought a “project truck,” a 1973 GMC K15 pick-up. Her truck, whom she fondly referred to as “Melody,” greatly expanded her interest in the automotive industry.

“Learning how it all worked, troubleshooting so many issues, and researching parts for that truck really lead me into the industry,” she said. “After deciding my original career plan to be a fire and arson investigator was not what I wanted to do, I thought that maybe a career working on cars would better suit my desire to never work in an office. I like seeing how things work, taking them apart and putting them back together again.

When asked the most challenging aspect of being a woman in a male-dominated field, Shelby responds, “The hardest thing about being a woman in a male-dominated field is the stigma that being a woman in a male-dominated field is a hard thing to do.”

She continues, “I haven’t found anyone that hasn’t been welcoming or helped me when I had questions. I grew up in a fire department family surrounded by men and women of all backgrounds who are welcoming if you are willing to do hard things and work hard. No one treats me differently from my male classmates. I work hard, ask questions and want to learn; and I expect the same from all of my classmates.”

Following graduation from NOVA, Shelby plans to get a job as a mechanic in a small, local shop, honing her skills and learning all aspects of the business. Two to three years after graduation, she hopes to have her own repair shop in addition to offering roadside repair services.

When asked what she would say to another young woman considering NOVA’s Auto Technology Program, Shelby says, “Don’t listen to the media or anyone outside the industry when they tell you there’s a problem with women in the automotive industry. If you work hard, are interested in doing a good job and don’t mind getting dirty, there is no real barrier to working in a male-dominated field.”

NOVA’s Automotive Technology program is designed to train technicians for the automotive field. Students completing this program will be ready for full-time employment as automotive technicians.

The program offers an AAS in automotive technology and career studies certificates in auto diagnosis and repair, collision repair and technology, diesel basic repair, diesel preventive maintenance and maintenance and light repair.

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the largest public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 80,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield (Medical Education Campus) and Woodbridge, through NOVA Online and high school dual enrollment. We offer more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs to help our students reach their academic and professional goals through university transfers and access to the most in-demand careers. At NOVA, we strive to ensure that every student succeeds, every program achieves and every community prospers. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, visit our website, www.nvcc.edu, or call 703.323.3000.

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