For Technical High School student Demry Polum, working in a male-dominated environment doesn’t intimidate her. In fact, it’s in her blood.
Her grandmother was a truck driver for five years, and her mother has been in the industry for 15 years. So it was no surprise that when she heard about Bates’ Technical High School, she was drawn toward the Auto Body Rebuilding and Refinishing program.
“When I found out about the Technical High School at Bates, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to do something that spoke to me,” says 19-year-old Demry, who learned of the high school from friends when she was a senior at Tacoma’s Wilson High School. “A traditional high school environment wasn’t working, and I have always wanted to work with cars, so I transferred, and it’s been a great experience!”
Looking back on her upbringing, Demry notes that her grandmother mostly raised her and her three siblings because of the long hours her mother worked. She recalls tinkering with items around the house, pulling things apart and putting them together to see how they functioned.
“My childhood helped push me toward what I want to do in my professional life. Grandma always taught me that women can do the same thing men can,” says Demry. “If my mom and grandma could handle working in a mostly-male industry, then I can handle it, too.”
When she started the program, she was the sole female. Now, there are three others. “I love that there are more girls in the program,” she says. “I like being able to see that there are others like me out there, who are able to say to the world, ‘you can’t tell me I can’t do this.’ It’s been awesome having them there,” says Demry, who also works at a restaurant five days a week, following her studies.
I love watching cars transform from their bashed, broken and battered state when they come into the shop, and then leaving looking like a masterpiece.
Demry lights up when she talks about painting cars. “I love watching cars transform from their bashed, broken and battered state when they come into the shop, and then leaving looking like a masterpiece. That’s my art—to paint and blend a part of a car so that it matches perfectly with the rest of it. I consider that an art, and it’s what I love doing,” she smiles.
Demry is set to graduate with both her Associate in Applied Science degree and high school diploma in August, 2017. Her ultimate goal is to open her own shop, after gaining work experience painting in other shops.