Student stands next to lawn mower in SVHS Power Mechanics class

Annie has a look of intense concentration on her face. Peering in to the depths of a piece of machinery with the help of a flashlight held by her fellow student, she cranks an unseen part into place, intent on re-assembling the four-stroke combustion engine at her work station. She is the only girl in the class.

Faced with a choice to enroll in either a newspaper class or Power Mechanics, Annie chose to go with the traditionally male-dominated course. “I’m involved in a lot of Agriculture classes already, so I thought I’d take one more,” she said, “I thought I’d get to learn something new, and it would be a fun experience.”

Power Mechanics is one of many electives in Sonoma Valley High School’s Agriculture Academy/Career Pathway program.

The class teaches the basics of engine design, repair, and maintenance, providing students an opportunity to learn technical skills relevant to the agriculture industry in a hands-on environment.

When asked how she feels about being the only girl in class, fifteen year-old Annie smiles. “It’s a little different,” she says, “when I first started the class I was really quiet and didn’t talk to anyone because they were older and felt intimidating.” She laughs, reflecting on those first days. “I have some friends in here now, I got used to them, they’re all really funny and pretty nice, so it’s easier now.”

Annie clearly enjoys the technical knowledge she’s learned in the class. When asked how she is applying her new skills, she smiles broadly and says, “Right now I’m repairing my dad’s lawn mower.” Annie’s family owns a dairy and a vineyard, so in addition to regular lawn maintenance, there is always farm equipment that needs to be repaired and maintained. Annie is happy that she can now help with these chores, and it sounds like her father is too.

“He thinks it’s pretty cool and he’s excited that he can talk to me about some of this stuff,” she says.

Engine maintenance aside, Annie plans on staying in the family business. She is enrolled in Plant and Soil Science and is planning to take a viticulture class in the near future.