Cumberland Polytechnic High School
Meet Izaihes Villegas
“Collision Repair Specialist”
Can a field trip change the course of a high school student’s life? Ask Izaihes Villegas, and he may just tell you yes.
At a young age, Izaihes knew the traditional high school route wasn’t for him. He was drawn to Cumberland Polytechnic High School (CPHS), which is located on the campus of Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC). This cooperative innovative high school is designed to attract students who are dedicated to pursuing diplomas, licenses, certificates and associates’ degrees that lead to college transfer and job market skills.
As a sophomore at CPHS, Izaihes knew he wanted to go into the workforce immediately after high school, but he still hadn’t decided on a career path.
A field trip to Fayetteville Technical Community College’s (FTCC) Collision Repair and Refinishing program changed everything. With a lifelong love for cars, his eyes were opened to the possibility of making a living while doing what he loves.
At 16 years old, he became the first high school student to enroll in FTCC’s Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology program and is now the first to complete it. Izaihes will graduate from CPHS with an associate's degree in Applied Science and with multiple I-CAR (Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair) certifications that will qualify him for entry-level employment. Right out of high school, he could be making up to $60,000 per year.
“It was very intimidating at first being 16 surrounded by men ranging from 23 all the way to 48,” said Izaihes. “I felt like I had something to prove due to the fact that I would be looked at as a kid if I didn't perform to the best of my abilities. The program taught me many skills such as structural repair, non-structural repair, Refinishing, welding and how to paint cars, along with many more.
“However, it also taught me social skills. Interacting every day in a workplace-like environment requires a lot more interaction than a classroom. I was able to gradually develop a better understanding of how to communicate with people on a professional level.”
Growing up, Izaihes spent a lot of time around cars. Although his parents are from Puerto Rico, Izaihes was born and raised in Fayetteville. His father had a passion for cars and passed that on to his son. When he was younger, they watched movies like the Fast and the Furious franchise. As Izaihes got older, his dad started to teach him what he knew. Together, they worked on cars.
“It was really more of me just handing him tools and watching him work,” Izaihes said. “At that age, what I enjoyed most was sitting in the car when he drove it. My dad gave me the passion and love for cars and my mother really pushed and helped me out academically by keeping me focused on school.”
Izaihes is leaving Cumberland County Schools confident, competitive, and ready for a career. Thanks to the choices and career pathways available to him, he is equipped to compete for high-demanding jobs in a career field that is his passion.
And it all started with a field trip.