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From Stay-at-Home Mom to Award-Winning Aviation Mechanic

Stephanie Begaye will be one of 21 students representing CNM at the upcoming National SkillsUSA competition in June
From Stay-at-Home Mom to Award-Winning Aviation Mechanic
Stephanie Begaye at the CNM Advanced Technology Center

May 01, 2018

A couple years back, Stephanie Begaye was sitting around waiting for her three small kids to get home from school. Restless and tired of being a stay-at-home mom, she decided to enroll at CNM to find a new and challenging career. Having grown up around a family of mechanics, Aviation Maintenance Technology is where she landed.

Now, after three years and lots of hard work, she’s graduating with an associate degree and the chance for a highly regarded and well-paying job. As icing, she also qualified to compete in the National SkillsUSA Championships in Louisville, Ky, in late June, after winning a gold medal in the state competition here at CNM in April.

“I grew up with strong grandparents who always told me that I need to be engaged and out there helping people,” Stephanie, 32, says. “And by working as an aviation mechanic, I can fulfill that role because I have an active role in keeping people safe.”

Right after she enrolled, Stephanie says her grandfather passed away. While it was hard, it also motivated her to endure through several years of a difficult schedule. She’s engaged to be married, but her fiancé is constantly on the road so she operates like a single mom. Every day, she would get the kids to school, go to classes until 3:40 in the afternoon, go get the kids, cook dinner, put them to bed and then study. If she had a test the next day, her oldest son who’s 10 would often help quiz her before bed.

“The kids still have their own dreams of things like playing sports, but after seeing me in this program they’ve told me that they’d also love to go into the military to fly jets,” she says.

Stephanie excelled throughout the program—she was on the Dean’s List several times—which helped her earn a number of scholarships. Thanks to funding from CNM and the Navajo Nation, where her dad is from, she went to school tuition-free.

“The Aviation program is not easy, but I had great instructors, and as long as I kept my grades up, everything worked out,” she says.

Now that she’s done, Stephanie says she’ll be looking for a job in aviation manufacturing where she gets to build airplanes. She also plans to get her bachelor’s in Aviation Science from Eastern New Mexico University to help her move up the ladder in the aviation field. In between, she wants to get her pilot’s license.

For the SkillsUSA competition, she’ll be competing against the nation’s best new mechanics so she’s spending the month of May getting ready. She’ll be practicing the 11 skills they’ll quiz her on—everything from identifying turbine parts to basic airplane electrical work—and reading notes from other CNM students who’ve already competed on best practices.

“My family is really proud of me when it comes to the degree and the competition,” she says. “My dad keeps joking that I need to start saving for my own plane since I’ll be able to fly everywhere and keep it maintained.”