Media franchise, restoration hobby inspire career interest for TSTC student

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Dominick Zavala, a TSTC Auto Collision and Management Technology student, buffs a panel as part of a refinishing project on a 1988 Chevrolet pickup during a recent lab session. (Courtesy of TSTC)

HARLINGEN — Texas State Technical College student Dominick Zavala first became fascinated with automobiles when the “Fast & Furious” media franchise became popular.

“I enjoyed watching the movies because the characters drove high-performing sports cars,” he said. “The movies inspired me to buy my first vehicle, which was a 2002 Dodge Dakota pickup truck. I did some auto body work on it and sold it. I purchased a 2009 Ford Mustang GT and did the same process.”

Zavala’s love for restoring automobiles led him to TSTC, where he is studying for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Auto Collision and Management Technology.

The San Benito resident said his program experience has been beneficial.

“My instructors are excellent at teaching,” he said. “The demonstrations they offer in labs make it easy to understand. They give you the opportunity to learn and offer feedback to improve your skills. I learn something new from the instructors in every class.”

Zavala said the program’s hands-on assignments are motivating.

“For the course Basic Paint Techniques, Equipment and Environmental Practices, my instructor (Maria Ramirez) asked that I paint the tailgate and doors for a 1984 Chevrolet Suburban,” he said. “She guided me through the process. The final outcome looked great.”

Zavala is soaking up as much knowledge and getting as much training as he can in his classes and lab sessions.

“The more I learn in the Auto Collision program, the more that will have a positive impact on my future career,” he said.

Raymundo Leija is one of his instructors.

“Dominick has caught on quickly to the technologies in our program,” Leija said. “His maturity also has been a positive factor for his development of having people skills. He has a strong desire to learn, and that will lead to his success after he graduates from TSTC.”

According to, automotive body and related repairers in Texas earn an average of $46,270 a year. The website projected that there would be a 14% increase in the number of such jobs in the state from 2020 to 2030.

TSTC offers Associate of Applied Science degrees in Auto Collision and Management Technology with refinishing and repair specializations at its Harlingen and Waco campuses. Certificate options also are available.

For more information about TSTC, visit