The Star-Herald

County Face: Lakeisha St. John of Limestone

Limestone native Lakeisha St. John is a risk-taker who isn’t afraid to try something new.

A new graduate of Northern Maine Community College’s Automotive Collision Repair (ACR) program, she studied residential construction during her sophomore and junior years at the Caribou Regional Technology Center (CRTC).

While there, she recalls walking by the collision repair shop every day on her way to class. “ACR looked really cool. I needed an extra class senior year, so I ended up taking ACR and I really liked it,” she said.

St. John first started working on vehicles at the CRTC.

“I didn’t get a chance to grow up around cars,” she said. “I had to start from the beginning.”

She bought a vehicle and was able to work on it in the shop. With the help of her classmates, she repaired the vehicle and made it look like new again.

“We rebuilt the back end of a wrecked car. I learned a lot,” she recalled.

After  high school she chose NMCC because, in addition to its proximity to home and affordability, the college has the only ACR program in Maine. She recently had the opportunity to participate in Skills USA in Bangor, where she won a silver medal for the collision repairs she did in her division.

St. John is passionate about her work. “I enjoy making something look good again. That’s really cool. I also like working with my hands,” she said, adding that she prefers a job that keeps her busy. “I work better in a fast-paced environment.”

She also likes the variety that a career in collision repair brings, where “it’s different every day.”

For several months, St. John was involved in a job shadow experience at Caldwell’s Auto LLC in Limestone. She has really enjoyed her time there, and hopes to obtain full-time employment at the shop.

Owner Robbie Caldwell has been a mentor to her, providing her with feedback and advice when she completes tasks in the shop.

“I really appreciate the time he has spent with me,” she said.

Though some may consider her line of work nontraditional, St. John said while working on vehicles she doesn’t consider gender. Besides, she brings certain strengths into the field.

“I don’t ever think about being one of the only females. I just go to the shop and do my work,” she said. “I have smaller hands, which makes it easier to complete certain tasks. Also, I have a better eye for color matching and I’m detail-oriented.”

Although she has experienced some challenges as a woman in a male-dominated field, she maintains a positive attitude.

“People may doubt me because I’m a female, but they get over it,” she commented. “They see that I am worth the time and that I have every right to be there as they do. Sometimes you have to work a little harder to prove yourself.”

Perhaps her confidence and fearless attitude is genetic. Lakeisha’s mother, who passed away six years ago, pursued a male-dominated career. She completed the commercial driver’s license (CDL) program at NMCC and earned her Class A license.

“I looked up to her,” St. John said.

She added she is thankful for the moral support she has received from family and friends while pursuing her studies, including that of her cousin, Jayna, and her husband, Derek Bosse; her boyfriend, Thomas “Binks” Albert; and her classmate, Mark Cyr.

“They have been my support group during my time here,” she said.

Instructors described her as a focused and dedicated student, and St. John shared some advice for academic success.

“Practice good time management skills,” she advised. “Always do your homework and go to class every day.”  

She offered a piece of advice for females considering a career in automotive collision repair, encouraging them to seize the opportunity.

“Just do it and put yourself out there. Don’t be intimidated,” she said. “It’s okay if you don’t know everything. You’re there to learn.”

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.