She's Got Drive
Some people just aren't meant to sit still.
Allison Berard found herself working behind a desk, answering phones and filing paperwork for the first three years she lived in Cheyenne. It wasn't that she was unhappy, but she knew she wasn't living her passion.
"I've always loved cars, doing the body work and painting," Allison said. "I started looking at LCCC, because I kept hearing good things about the auto body repair program there."
Cars run wild in her heart and have since an early age. Instilled by her father, Brent Berard, it's what she knows.
"My summers were spent going up and down California to Goodguys car shows," Allison remembered, referencing one of the most recognizable events in the field. "My dad had a muscle car shop called South Valley Muscles. He was the gateway to the life of cars."
At the age of ten, she recalls being able to tell her dad that she had picked out her top three rides—'72 Rally Nova ("fast car, underrated"), '57 Bel Air ("the body lines, in the '50s they had big fins"), and a '69 Charger ("that had a lot to do with The Dukes of Hazzard").
Her mother left the picture when she was only six months old, leaving Allison and her two older siblings to be raised solely by her dad.
"I don't know how he had the energy to deal with all of us," Allison said with a smile. "Even though we didn't really grow up with a mom, we had a Mr. Mom who showed us the right path."
"It was challenging raising daughters as a single dad," Brent said. "Time management was the key to making sure their lives were fulfilled and letting them know to be strong in their desires to achieve anything they put their mind to."
Part of that parenting was protecting Allison from working in the shop. She grew up with lung problems, and Brent's previous career as a respiratory therapist encouraged him to divert her interest in painting cars with all the fumes involved—in addition to all the other potentially hazardous heavy equipment and dangers found in a vehicle repair garage.
"But Allison is incredibly strong-willed. When she puts her mind to what she wants, there's no stopping her," her dad commented. "If you told her 'no,' she would only try harder."
Today, 24-year-old Allison is no longer a young girl begging to work in her father's shop. She has left the desk jobs to pursue a career that truly interests her. The shop is no longer a perilous place to be, but a comfort zone where she can take control and thrive.
That comfort extends to the classroom as well.
"Allison is a great student," Rob Benning, LCCC's auto body repair instructor, said. "In the lab, her attention to detail is a true advantage. In this industry, attention to detail is such a critical skill...minor defects can have a major impact on the overall repair."
In May, she completed her associate degree in auto body repair from LCCC. Allison anticipates landing a job for a shop or dealership in town to gain some working experience. However, her ultimate goal is to open up a shop of her own.
"I couldn't be more happy and supportive of Allison's desire to follow in my footsteps," her father said. "It makes me so proud when driving down the road and she can tell you what year, make and model of any classic muscle car she sees."
Allison said her expanding knowledge of automobiles is strengthening the bond with her father even more.
"We talk a lot about cars now," she said. "Every time we talk, he tells me how proud he is of me."