By Nancy Gutierrez
It wasn't until Julie Niday's junior year at Exeter Union High School that she discovered her interest and love for mechanics.
"I was brought up that if you have a problem with an engine you take it to a boy," she said. "But I was always fascinated with engines and mechanics."
So fascinated that, as a junior, when she had just two required classes left to take which left two periods to fill with electives, she decided to take music and Ag Mechanics 1 with Dan Crookam.
Julie had been in choir since her freshman year and she said it was something she had always wanted to do and will always be a part of her life.
"But when I went in to mechanics it became more desirable than music. As soon as I started I fell in love with it," Julie said. "Ever since that day I decided that is what I would do."
Julie decided as a junior that she would become a fabricator and earn a living making motorcycles. Her Ag Mechanics classes would be the starting block as Crookam taught Julie how to mig- weld and torch weld and how to use several other tools usually utilized in a mechanics shop.
"It took her a little time but she wasn't intimidated or afraid to learn," Crookam said. "The shop can be a busy loud place."
Julie said in her introduction class she learned how to arch weld, and survey and made several wood projects. In her next mechanics class on small engines Julie did the opposite of what she had learned when she was younger.
"I learned how an engine works and the difference between a two stroke and 4 stroke engine," she said. "We also learned how to trouble shoot. It was the basics, enough to get us started."
Once Julie had the basics she enrolled in the TCOVE mechanics class where students make their own projects. While some of the guys in the shop were making panels for pens in the swine unit or even trailers, Julie decided she wanted to build something that she could get some use out of, so she is making a large candle holder that can be used in a fireplace.
"I'm halfway done. I want it to look like it's made of ivy vines," she said.
Julie took a ?? foot pipe and slowly manipulated the metal into a coiled piece that will be use to hold the candles. Julie heated the pipe until she was able to bend it with pliers.
"I lit the pliers on fire once, doing it," he said.
Though she enjoys working on her project, she'd much rather put her skills to use in more practical methods. Julie said over Christmas she fixed an engine powered go-cart for a neighbor.
"I worked on the motor, welded some pieces together and repainted it for him. It was a gift for his son," she said.
Now Julie is the one to go to when her brother Scott or dad Richard needs work done on an engine.
At the start of her senior year she researched trade schools knowing that she wanted to become a motorcycle mechanic. That's when she found the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI) in Phoenix Ariz.
"It's a good school," Crookam said "They teach the job skills that people are looking for. It's the right school for getting started."
Julie was accepted to MMI in January. For 63 weeks she will work on every kind of motorcycle and engine learning how to fabricate motorcycles. Julie said she already has a job lined up after she graduates from MMI. She will go to work for the Harley Davidson shop in Phoenix. But that isn't where Julie wants to stay. She said she'll work there until her boyfriend Charles Hache, whom everyone calls Oz, graduates from Universal Technical Institute (UTI) also in Phoenix. UTI teaches their students about automotive, diesel and collision repair skills.
"We'll move back to California and start our own motorcycle and automotive fabrication shop," Julie said. "I want to completely make motorcycles, just like those guys you see on Orange County Choppers."
Crookam said she is going to the right school to achieve that goal.
"Kids that are motivated to go are going to a place that will open a lot of doors for them," he said.
Julie's family is supportive of her decision though she said her mother, Retta, doesn't want Julie to actually ride motorcycles.
"Once I get to Phoenix, I'm sure I will," Julie said.