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Harms’ Way: Automotive scholar is using love of fixing things to find new career path

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Katie Harms, a second-year Automotive Service Technology Program student from Southeast Portland, earned a $4,000 Car Care Council Women’s Board scholarship.

Katie Harms, a second-year Automotive Service Technology Program student from Southeast Portland, earned a $4,000 Car Care Council Women’s Board scholarship.

Katie Harms’ path toward a new career just got a big shot in the arm.

Harms, a second-year Automotive Service Technology Program student from Southeast Portland, earned a $4,000 Car Care Council Women’s Board scholarship. Her award was one of many that totaled $28,000 in national scholarships that went to high school and post-secondary students in the automotive service field. The Car Care Council Women’s Board is comprised of auto care professionals who provide opportunities, education and career leadership to women in the industry.

“I was very shocked that I got one for $4,000,” said Harms, a 29-year-old Corvallis native. “I was maybe expecting $100. It has a huge impact because my parents have been paying out of pocket for me to go to school due to previous student loans so I wasn’t able to qualify for more loans to go through this program. It’s a lot of money and will pretty much pay for the rest of my schooling.”

Her past student loans were from her culinary school, which she graduated from in 2010. After years of working as a cook at various restaurants in Portland, Harms realized she wasn’t passionate about the culinary world. So, she decided to follow her real love of fixing things and gravitated to PCC’s Automotive Service Technology Program because of its reputation.

“This one just seemed to fit my needs because I didn’t grow up in a family where there’s a bunch of mechanics,” Harms said. “(PCC instructors) could teach me from the bottom all the way up. I like working with my hands, and I like knowing how things work and I love tools.”

Harms’ story is made all the remarkable because she has battled drug addiction her entire life. It wasn’t until 2013, that she decided to make a change and get sober.

Harms’ story is made all the remarkable because she has battled drug addiction her entire life. It wasn’t until 2013, that she decided to make a change and get sober.

The Automotive Service Technology Program, which is a leader in alternative fuel vehicle repair and accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation, trains students to be skilled service technicians. It provides the high-tech and fundamental skills necessary to succeed in a rapidly changing industry that includes more and more computers.

“On just your base models you have 30-40 module computer systems with networking, and if you can’t understand that you can’t fix them,” said Harms, who sports a 4.0 grade-point average. “The field is becoming more specialized.”

Harms’ story is made all the remarkable because she has battled drug addiction her entire life. It wasn’t until 2013 that she decided to make a change and get sober.

“I just kind of grew up,” she said.

The friends she was hanging out with, low self confidence and drug addiction by her biological parents (she was adopted as an infant) contributed to her own struggles.

“I’ve dealt with addictive behavior my entire life,” Harms reflected. “My mom and dad have stood behind me no matter what I did. Without them I wouldn’t be standing here right now. I just decided I was done with it and quit.”

Automotive Service faculty Scott Morgan has assisted her throughout her PCC tenure at the Sylvania Campus shop. He pushed her to find employment to enhance her second-year training, and as a result she secured a job with Sherwood Auto Repair this fall.

“Each day she brings such enthusiasm to class, asking questions, smiling and bringing the whole group together to learn more,” Morgan said. “Her success is not based on what she knew coming into the program but in her eagerness and openness in fitting each new piece she learns into the overall puzzle.”

Harms, who plans to earn an associate degree in applied science and may go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, said she couldn’t have gotten through her first year without PCC’s instructors.

“I didn’t grow up working on cars,” she said. “I’ve sort of annoyed my instructors with questions. I’m very particular. If I want to know something I want to know it correctly not just partially. All of them have expressed their belief in me, which is helpful for me because I don’t necessarily have all that much confidence being new to the industry. All the teachers I’ve had have been extremely helpful.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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Comments

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x by Linda Browning 1 year ago

Congratulations, Katie! You are a role model for anyone who has struggled with addiction, and for the power of setting goals and staying with them. PCC is lucky to have you!

x by Blake Hausman 1 year ago

Great news, Katie. Right on. You’re an inspiration to us all.

x by Anonymous 1 year ago

Why did you label the article “Harms’ Way Is Working”? Was that an intentional joke or a poor choice of words? Do you believe in putting people in harm’s way?

x by James Hill 1 year ago

Dear Anonymous, do you understand her last name is Harms? Her way is working, educationally and professionally.

x by Deborah Harms 1 year ago

Nice job, sis. We’re all proud of you, and I am personally inspired by your perseverance and drive.

x by Anonymous 1 year ago

Of course I understand that her name is Harms.

If her name were Payne, would you have written “PCC Brings Payne to The Job World”?

There are virtually unlimited ways you could have written the headline better.

x by James Hill 1 year ago

You suggest a negative connotation that isn’t there. Even your Payne example would work. So, let’s not worry about how headlines are written and celebrate Katie’s accomplishments. She’s pretty awesome.

x by Stedman Bailey 1 year ago

Congratulations Katie!! You’ve done great work, and it’s great to see it acknowledged! Thanks for being our good news this week!

x by Dani Dennenberg 1 year ago

Katie, Congratulations on reaching this pinnacle and for your dedication, resilient spirit and commitment to your path. Keep asking those deeper questions! They’ll keep opening doors. The PCC community is behind you!

x by James E.Blackburn 1 year ago

Nicely done! Kudos to the writer and auto staff.

x by Jennifer McBratney 1 year ago

Wow Katie!! Way to go and congratulations. And if you attend PCC during the 2016-2017 school year, please apply for the PCC Foundation scholarships. Good work!

x by Ferdous Sarwary 1 year ago

Wow! The PCC community is proud of you Katie! And nice title Mr. Hill!

x by Bernade1tte Hedenskog 1 year ago

Great story, congratulations on all your hard work. This story inspired me because I have always believed if you put your heart into something it will always pay off in the end. I wish you great success in your future. You are an inspiration to all and thank god you had parents that were there for you and never gave up.

Thank you

Bernadette

x by Robin Burwell 1 year ago

Katie,
I am so proud of you and all you have accomplished in the auto tech program. As your former advisor, now retired, I wish you a great career. I am sure they are happy to have you at Sherwood. I hope you consider talking to Kim about joining the auto tech program advisory committee.

x by Diane Jantze 1 year ago

Bravo Katie,
You are such an inspiration. What great recognition for your achievements and for the whole Automotive Program. Huge congratulations, you deserve it!

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