Haley Hughes is often the only female student in her classes at State Technical College of Missouri. She is a student in the Precision Machining Technology Program, and she previously completed the Outdoor Power and Sports Technology Program (now Powersports Technology).
“Being a girl is something that I hope will be more common in the mechanics field one day,” she said. “Every time I start a job, I will have to fight every day to prove that I belong in the shop.”
Haley has more than proven herself at State Tech, where she is an accomplished award winner in her field. As a Phi Theta Kappa member, she serves as her chapter’s vice president of scholarship, and she is an officer in the Missouri Region.
She has won four gold medals at SkillsUSA state competitions in Missouri. She also received a gold in the 2017 SkillsUSA national Power Equipment Technology Competition, and a bronze in the 2018 SkillsUSA national Motorcycle Service Technology Competition.
At the state level, Haley was the only woman competing in her categories. Nationally, there were only three or four girls competing alongside her.
Haley is also among the inaugural Coca-Cola New Century Workforce Pathway Scholars. This new scholarship from Phi Theta Kappa and The Coca-Cola Foundation recognizes the top student in each state planning to go directly into the workforce. Winners receive $1,250 to help complete their associate degree or cover the costs of certification exam fees, tools, or anything else students might need to start their career.
“Receiving this scholarship in its first year and being a female mechanic, to me, is quite special,” she said. “It means I am good at what I do.”
Haley’s interest in mechanics started when her family began racing Sea-Doo jet skis during the summer. She helped her father modify their Sea-Doos to make them faster and higher-performing.
Her dream is to do this for a living, whether it’s through owning her own shop or working for someone else. She’s adding the machining degree so she will be able to make her own parts, which are typically expensive and hard to come by.
In this world, too, she’s in the minority. She can think of only five other women who race in her same circuit.
Still, Haley hasn’t been discouraged. She moved to Woodstock, Georgia, this past summer to work with a professional drag boat racing team. As she prepared to move, she sent resumes to mechanic shops in the area and was offered a job by a shop owner who was a PTK alumnus.
In the end, she didn’t accept the position, but she said she’ll be sharing this example with her classmates this fall when Phi Theta Kappa invitations go out. Many of them qualify for membership, but few of them accept.
“I’m going to need every advantage I can to get a job and keep it,” she said. “When you’re looking for a job and nobody is hiring, you may find that one employer who was in PTK or who knows what it is and will put your resume at the top of the stack because it has PTK on it.”
Haley’s PTK membership was made possible through a Golden Opportunity Scholarship, which covers the international membership fee of $60. She attended PTK Catalyst 2018 in Kansas City in April, and she visited PTK Headquarters, the Center for Excellence, in Jackson, Mississippi, this summer for training with her fellow regional officers.
At State Tech, she is co-leading a College Project to end sexual harassment on campus, where the male-to-female student ratio is approximately 5.4 to 1. She worked with college administrators to ensure faculty and staff are communicating in class that harassment will not be tolerated, and counselors are speaking in each of the college’s programs about what constitutes harassment.
The fall semester just started August 21, and Haley said she’s already noticed a change.
“Without Phi Theta Kappa, I don’t know if I would be doing something like this College Project and making a difference on campus,” she said. “I get to make this much of a difference in my school because of the Golden Opportunity Scholarship.”
Advisors: Nominate a deserving eligible student to have their international membership fee paid by the Golden Opportunity Scholarship today! The deadline is October 24.