NEW MILFORD – Even though women hold many key positions at All-Star Transportation, the staff at the company’s three maintenance shops had for years remained all male. But that changed this spring when Sarah Fontoura was hired as a service technician in New Milford.
“I love cars,” the 23-year-old Fontoura says. “I was raised on cars. My dad has been a mechanic all his life for the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) in the Bronx. Every weekend we went to car shows, and we still do that today.”
But Fontoura brings more to the job than just a passion for cars. After graduating from New Milford High School in 2013, she completed a two-year automotive technician program at Naugatuck Valley Community College, earning an associate’s degree. She also became a skilled welder while at NVCC.
After completing her schooling, Fontoura worked for two years at a large auto repair shop, where she mainly did tire repairs and oil changes. Wanting to do more, she applied to become a service technician at All-Star after seeing a help-wanted advertisement on Indeed, the Internet-based employment company.
“This is a good job,” she says. “I realize that these type of jobs are hard to come by for women. Not many (shops) like women mechanics. Many are disrespectful. I was once turned down for an interview because I’m a woman.”
But her work experience since joining All-Star in March has been refreshingly different.
“The guys here a great,” she says, naming all her co-workers who have helped and provided guidance. “I’m starting at the bottom, but if I find a bus that needs brakes or belts, I get to do it.
“I can’t learn by textbook,” she adds. “I learn by being in the shop and doing it.”
In her spare time, Fontoura, as might be expected, tinkers with her two vehicles – a 1999 Firebird and a 2015 Jeep. She does all her own maintenance and repairs, while dreaming of the day when she has home with its own shop.
She also anticipates working toward certification as a master school bus technician after she becomes more settled in her job and learns more about buses. But she’s already acquired the materials need to pass the first test toward becoming certified.
“We are thrilled to have Sarah be a member of our maintenance team. Her energy and positive attitude are assets,” says Leslie Sheldon, All-Star Transportation’s operation manager.