SEMA Memorial Scholarship Inspires Tomorrow’s Aftermarket Professionals

SEMA Member News—March/April 2015

SEMA Memorial Scholarship Inspires Tomorrow’s Aftermarket Professionals

Chester Fisher, a high-performance motorsports technology student at the University of Northwestern Ohio, received a $2,000 scholarship from SEMA in 2014.
Chester Fisher, a high-performance motorsports technology student at the University of Northwestern Ohio, received a $2,000 scholarship from SEMA in 2014.

     
       

The deadline is approaching for the SEMA Memorial Scholarship and Loan Forgiveness program, with applications due Wednesday, April 1. Each year, the scholarship fund gives resources to students pursuing automotive careers in a variety of areas, from accounting to manufacturing. Scholarship awards range from $2,000 to $3,000, with $5,000 going to the top individual. In 2014, 45 students were awarded scholarships, and 17 current employees of SEMA-member companies received $2,000 loan-forgiveness awards.

Chester Fisher is a recent scholarship recipient. At 21, Fisher is on schedule to complete an associate’s degree in high-performance motorsports technology at the University of Northwestern Ohio in May. His love of the automotive world began early.

“When I was younger I was into playing with Hot Wheels cars, and then the interest hit me again when I turned 16 and went to get my license,” he explained. “I really thought that I wanted to find a career, not just a job. I was drawn toward my interest. I always liked to know how stuff worked, always took stuff apart to try and figure out how it worked when I was younger.”

Fisher refined his goals over the years. After earning an associate’s degree in auto mechanics from a community college, he realized that the more specialized fields were most exciting to him. He now sees the high-performance niche as his true passion and hopes to one day work for a tuner shop geared toward high-performance vehicles.

“Growing up in Iowa, we are right in the middle of the salt belt, so the cars people drive every day during the winter get rusted and rot away,” he said. “People don’t take care of their daily drivers, and I just thought I could make a more comfortable living for myself if I became more specialized.”

Fisher was selected to receive a $2,000 scholarship in 2014, the second year in a row for him. He especially appreciated the fact that SEMA’s scholarships are open to students in every college class. The University of Northwestern Ohio also uses the scholarship to vet students for the SEMA Show Student Program, another possibility that appealed to Fisher.

“Right from the get-go I knew that it could be an opportunity for me to get my foot in the door, to hopefully end up with a career that I enjoyed,” he said.

He participated in the program in 2014, an experience that was on his bucket list and that gave him a greater understanding of the industry as a whole.

“It opened my eyes to how big a segment of the economy the aftermarket industry is—how much money there is going in and out, how much business companies involved with SEMA do and how big of an impact they make on the economy,” Fisher said.

As a part of the SEMA Show program, students have the chance to work with an exhibitor for an afternoon. Fisher was paired with Hypertech and worked closely with CEO Amy Faulk, who is a member of SEMA’s Hall of Fame and is a past member of the association’s Board of Directors. Faulk shared advice from her own experiences in the industry—input Fisher was eager to receive. One of things that stuck with him from their conversations was the importance of being open to opportunities as they come along, because you never know where they might lead.

Now that Fisher is back at school, he is thinking about graduation. He knows that the contacts he made at the SEMA Show will be beneficial when he starts applying for jobs in the coming months. He is also grateful for the monetary support he’s received from SEMA.

“[The scholarship has] definitely taken some of the financial burden off,” he said. “School’s expensive, and living in general just seems to be getting more and more expensive, so it’s really helped me because it’s that much more debt I won’t have to worry about when I get done with school.”

Fisher hopes that one day he will have the same impact on others.

“The fact that SEMA as an organization has the ability and is willing to give the scholarships to students really motivates me to look for a career in the industry,” he said. “If I end up with a career in a company that’s a member of SEMA, maybe I can give back and hopefully motivate someone else as much as it’s motived me.”

Visit www.sema.org/scholarships to apply today for a scholarship or a loan-forgiveness award, or contact Juliet Marshall at julietm@sema.org for more information.

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