When Lizbeth Rocha began first grade in 2007 as a CSF Scholar at a Staten Island Catholic school, it might have been hard to predict that fourteen years later she would be working as a mechanic for a top NASCAR racing team in North Carolina. Yet that’s exactly what happened.
“I knew I wanted to work on cars and work for NASCAR at the age of three,” Lizbeth told us recently. “I was really obsessed.”
She and her younger sister, Carolina, attended Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-St. Benedicta School using CSF scholarships. Lizbeth and Carolina both went on to enroll in Port Richmond High School, where Lizbeth racked up numerous honors for academics, athletics, and JROTC.
Her father, who works on cars himself and first introduced her to NASCAR, was initially skeptical of her career choice. But by high school, Lizbeth was still single-minded about working with cars, so when she found out about the NASCAR Technical Institute (NTI) in Mooresville, North Carolina, and became set on attending, both her parents supported her decision.
In the fall of 2019, Lizbeth headed 600 miles south to enroll at NTI, taking courses in subjects such as welding, fabrication, and pit crew – “basically, what it takes to get into NASCAR.”
While at NTI, Lizbeth served as a volunteer pit crew member at many races, where she got to meet NASCAR greats including Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Also during her time at NTI, Lizbeth earned the prestigious Crew Chief award, given to students who take their participation and education to another level.
Shortly after graduating from NTI’s Automotive Technology program in November, 2020, Lizbeth landed a job as a finish fabricator at Richard Childress Racing (RCR), a racing company that’s been a NASCAR fixture for more than 50 years.
As a finish fabricator, Lizbeth designs and installs crush panels, which go behind or around tires in NASCAR cars to help lessen the impact during a crash. Soon after starting at RCR, she found out she was the first female the company had ever hired to work in the shop. Even now, almost a year later, she’s still the only woman at RCR working in a non-administrative role.
Although competing in a male-dominated industry has its challenges, Lizbeth faces them with a can-do attitude, explaining, “It was a little bit scary at first, but it was also very crazy to think there was just me [as the only woman], so I kind of felt on top of the world.”
Throughout the racing season, Lizbeth gets to watch the cars she works on compete in NASCAR races. “I’m pretty proud even if we end up in 10th place or even 30th place. I just pray that no one gets hurt and they don’t wreck the car, because then we have to redo all our work,” she said. “But it’s always really great to see my work displayed.”
While she’s a long way from Staten Island now, Lizbeth regularly keeps in touch with her elementary school teachers and principal and credits the education she received at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-St. Benedicta School with laying the foundation for her future success, including forcing her out of her comfort zone and overcoming her shyness.
“All the basics, I learned in elementary school,” she explains. “All the fundamentals got me to where I am at. I wouldn’t have made it this far if I didn’t have the education I have.”
She also has a message of gratitude for the CSF supporters who made her scholarship possible: “Thank you for giving me the privilege to go to a really good school which taught me everything I know, and for helping my parents afford a private school.”
Looking ahead, Lizbeth plans to continue her education and keep becoming a better mechanic.
“I’ve been looking into other programs NASCAR offers to move up the scale. I want to learn as much as I can about cars. I still have a lot to learn, but I do plan to be top-notch,” Lizbeth shared.
With her winning attitude and record of hard work, we have no doubt she will continue to build a successful career. We’re proud of you, Lizbeth!