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Automotive Technology student aspires to keep the world running

Automotive Technology student aspires to keep the world running

NORFOLK, Neb. – Issac Godinez Ponce’s family had dreams for him to one day to enter the world of medicine to care for people or become an advocate for others as an attorney; however, he felt a calling to help the professionals who help their patients and clients in another way. He has chosen a path to become a professional in the field of automotive repair and he is fulfilling that dream at Northeast Community College.

“My family has been supportive of me attending college, but they had very different aspirations of me. As I grew up, I learned I’m more interested in helping people keep their vehicles running which helps them keep their own jobs,” Godinez Ponce said. “I get to keep the doctors and the lawyers of the world running.” 

Godinez Ponce, of South Sioux City, is a sophomore enrolled in Northeast’s Automotive Technology program. He plans to finish this spring and return in Fall 2023 to enroll in the College’s Auto Body Repair Technology program because he believes it will give him a more well-rounded experience.  

Godinez Ponce decided to pursue a career as a mechanic after an unfortunate experience two years ago. 

“In my senior year of high school my car broke down. I didn’t know what I was doing and wasn’t taking care of it. After having a family friend, who was a mechanic, come look at the car they told me how bad it was, and it was bad,” he said. “Basically, the vehicle needed a new engine. I decided then and there I was going to fix my mistakes and that is what led me on this academic road today.”

Godinez Ponce is thankful for the supportive people he has in his life who constantly encourage him on his journey. His friend, Javie Pintor, reassures him when he needs it, even when Issac admits he may not want it. Godinez Ponce is grateful for his parents, who decided to come the United States to offer him better opportunities in life. He is also appreciative of his classmates at Northeast, who have come into the program with considerable industry knowledge and experience that he said he was lacking. 

“I didn’t even know the right way to turn a wrench,” he joked. 

On the Norfolk campus, Godinez Ponce is a member of the TRIO program. TRIO is a federally funded program that assists income-eligible individuals, first-generation college students and those with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline to post-baccalaureate programs. It also focuses on career exploration, cultural and social enrichment and self-awareness.

Godinez Ponce uses TRIO’s various services including meeting with his advisor and attending workshops to maintain his academic record.

“TRIO has not only pushed me, but it also has made a home for me at Northeast. They push me to do better in and outside of classes, such as to form new and strengthen existing relationships with peers, coworkers and family to deepen our bonds.”

Godinez Ponce recalls former TRIO administrative assistant Debbie Taylor as a “nice, sweet person who offered a very soft heart for the students around her.” He felt she knew his story and his struggles and regularly followed up with him if she saw he was having a difficult day.

TRIO Advisor Matthew Sazama describes Godinez Ponce as everything they want to see in a TRIO student.

“Issac is honest with himself and others around him. He asks for help when he needs it and works hard to gain every bit of value he can from his education here at Northeast,” Sazama said. “Like many TRIO students, Issac has shared some personal stories of the struggles it took just to get to college, let alone succeed while here. For every reason Issac shouldn’t have made it this far; his grit and determination have helped him find a way.”

Sazama said he has no doubt that Godinez Ponce will succeed, not only in the classroom, but in life as well.

“His heart and humility are second to none and he will continue to have a positive impact on those around him no matter where life takes him.”

Similar sentiments are shared by one of Godinez Ponce’s automotive technology instructors. Joe Ottis said his student takes challenges head on and overcomes them and then some. He said when other students may use hindrances as excuses to fail, Godinez Ponce runs with them. 

“Physically he is one of the tallest guys in the shop, and he can really set the tone in class when he has a light bulb moment and new concepts click,” Ottis said. “Others feed off that excitement and it sets a mood where he and others aren’t afraid to ask questions and get every bit out of their education. Issac is a good student, gets along well with everyone and will help them anyway he can. He will go a long way!”

For his hard work and determination, Godinez Ponce was named the TRIO Student Support Services Student of the Month for October at Northeast Community College. Each month, a participating TRIO student is selected for the award based upon their work in TRIO and in other activities on campus or in the community. Award winners receive a plaque from the TRIO program and have their photo placed on the “TRIO Program Student of the Month” Achievement Recognition board. 

The board, located in the TRIO office, features the theme, True Leaders. It reads, “We define true leaders as those who are first to strive and who give their all for the success of the team. True leaders are first to see the need, envision the plan, and empower the team for action. By the strength of the leader's commitment, the power of the team is unleashed.”

Once he graduates from Northeast, Godinez Ponce plans to work as a mechanic with a dream of running his own shop in northeast Nebraska one day. 

“My parents have come around now that they realize they have a mechanic in the family and will never have to pay for maintenance and repair on their cars again,” he said.