When Terica Buckner took over as the owner of the Hawthorne Auto Clinic, she knew she was inheriting a business with good bones and a history of supporting women who want to enter the automotive field.
After more than two decades of hard work, Terica assumed ownership of the southeast Portland business in January. She’s worked there since she was 17 and is adjusting to her new life as a business owner.
“It has been a whirlwind,” she said.
This professional milestone is the ultimate achievement of a long a career that started with shop cleanup and then branched into automotive technician followed by customer service adviser. While working her way through the many different jobs in the
shop, she also earned a scholarship and worked her way through classes to an associate degree in automotive technology at Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC).
Throughout her studies, she was always supported by the previous owners of the Hawthorne Auto Clinic. Not only did they provide her first job opportunities, they sponsored her while she got her automotive degree, and then provided her with a tuition
reimbursement when she got her business administration degree from the University of Phoenix.
Terica graduated from MHCC’s Individualized Mechanical Program of Repair Technicians (IMPORT) in 2000. But after following the path into automotive, she recognized how hard it can be to enter the industry as a woman and felt fortunate to have found
a shop where anyone could learn, grow and enjoy working on cars.
That is why Terica continues the shop’s legacy of supporting women who want to enter the automotive field. All of her front office staff are women and she sponsored Natalie Breece, one of her technicians, when she attended MHCC for the IMPORT program
“I think it can be a challenge to find the right place to get started, but it is key to find somewhere that will help you build your career and passion and skills,” Terica said.
Like Terica, Natalie says she counts herself as extremely lucky to have found a shop that was so supportive of her dream to work in the automotive industry. She was hired on as an intern in 2016 and found out about the IMPORT program shortly after.
“I really love math and physics and when I told one of the IMPORT instructors that he said ‘well, a vehicle is just math and physics on wheels,’” she said.
A few months later, she was accepted into the program and appreciated the structure of the curriculum. Like MHCC’s other automotive programs, IMPORT students start out in classes on campus and then transition to a repair shop or dealership where they
can earn a paycheck and gain experience while working toward their degrees.
“Having that hands-on experience was super valuable,” Natalie said.
She appreciated the challenging nature of what she was learning throughout the program and the high standards of her instructors, which translated to making her a more proficient technician in the long run.
“It can be a little intimidating at some points, but it really prepared me to diagnose cars and back up my answers. I have more confidence in my own diagnosis and depth of knowledge now,” she said.
For Terica and Natalie alike, the combination of finding a shop that empowers women in automotive and the MHCC IMPORT program led them to achieving more than they thought was possible. And now as the owner of her own business, Terica hopes to continue
to encourage more women to leverage MHCC’s automotive programs and join her industry, whether it is under the hood or working with customers.
“You get a huge base of knowledge for other career paths through this program,” she said. “Even if you don’t want to be a technician, going through the IMPORT program is worthwhile because there are so many good careers out there that are in high