Rodeo racer becoming first woman to graduate from Dixie Tech with diesel mechanic degree

ST. GEORGE — A Dixie Technical College student will be the first woman to graduate from the school’s diesel mechanic program this June. 

Lydia Farnsworth stands in front of an engine in Building B on campus at Dixie Technical College in St. George, Utah. Feb. 23, 2021 | Photo by Megan Webber, St. George News.

Apple Valley native Lydia Farnsworth, 19, will complete the two-year program after graduating early from Hurricane High School and stacking up work hours at Parke Cox Trucking in St. George, where she currently works as a truck washer. With graduation on the horizon, Farnsworth said studying at Dixie Tech has allowed her to get her hands dirty and learn a lot about her chosen field. 

“I’m gonna miss this place,” Farnsworth told St. George News. “It’s fun to accomplish little things and big things, like when you get a project that’s just kicking your butt and you’re frustrated and it’s driving you crazy. But then you finally get it figured out, that’s a good feeling. That’s what keeps me coming back.” 

Throughout her time at Dixie Tech, Farnsworth said she would look around and notice that she was the only woman in the shop, but the welcome was much warmer than she expected. Being known as the first female to complete the program is exciting, but also nerve-racking. 

“This would all be worth it even if I wasn’t (the first woman), but it makes it even better,” she said. “I was expecting that I would kind of have to fight for my way in, but just knowing people and those people knowing people, it’s been a lot simpler than I thought it was gonna be to get into this.” 

When her high school classmates were deciding where they would go to college, most of the other girls chose to study similar things, Farnsworth said. But no one else had an interest in mechanics or engineering. Aside from being fascinated with the way diesel engines work, Farnsworth said she loves working on trucks because it’s a necessary skill, especially when you need to haul horse trailers to rodeos and events across the state. 

An accomplished barrel racer, Farnsworth loves living close to her horses and hopes that a future in engineering and working on trucks will allow her to continue riding. Farnsworth has raced in local rodeos between St. George and Cedar City since she was very young. 

“Honestly, I started because I wanted to be a professional barrel racer,” she said. “And I thought, ‘What are some skills that I might need on the road?’ And fixing my truck if it breaks down would definitely be one, so that kind of inspired that idea.”

Farnsworth’s father and grandfather are both truck drivers, so Farnsworth is no stranger to being around engines. When it was time to decide where to go to college, staying close to home was important so she could be near her horses. 

“I wasn’t ready to move somewhere else, especially with a horse,” Farnsworth said. “I’m still obsessed with the Cummins engine, just because I grew up with it around me and that’s the truck that would pull our horse trailers.” 

When she’s not riding or working on trucks, Farnsworth can be found playing the cello, kickboxing or practicing leatherwork.

Left to right: Dixie Tech lead diesel instructor Shawn Bain, student Lydia Farnsworth and diesel instructor Robert Nelson stand by a truck in the shop at Dixie Technical College in St. George, Utah. Feb. 23, 2021 | Photo by Megan Webber, St. George News.

As a student, Farnsworth has outperformed her classmates and impressed her teachers. Robert Nelson, a diesel industry professional and instructor at Dixie Tech, told St. George News that other women have enrolled in the diesel mechanic program but none have finished it. He’s been looking forward to seeing Farnsworth graduate, he said.

“It’s something that we’ve been really excited about,” he said. “For her to come in and be able to stay with everything and be as strong as she has been, it’s awesome, and hopefully a lot of other people look at that and want to do it too.”

Nelson added that the best part of his job is when former students come back a couple of years after they graduate and tell him about all the things they’ve done after leaving school. Although he said he will be sad to see Farnsworth go, he’s excited to see what she accomplishes. 

Shawn Bain, the lead diesel instructor at Dixie Tech, said that Cox Trucking, the shop where Farnsworth works, is one of the hardest shops to work in because the owner demands perfection. No one works there unless they love what they do, he said, and to see Farnsworth excel there has been inspiring. 

“It’s really nice to see that she’s working out there, that she’s moved on,” he said. “One day, she’ll be a lot smarter than we are, I’m sure. She’ll probably be engineering on some of the trucks or something like that.”

With 55 years of industry experience between the two of them, Bain and Nelson try to go outside the normal parameters of teaching to give their students more hands-on experience in addition to the required textbook material, Bain said. With the field in such high demand, Farnsworth said she loves working in a shop because she can ensure that people drive away in a safe, well-looked-after machine. Being a girl doesn’t stop her, and any girl with an interest in mechanics shouldn’t be phased either, she said. 

“If you want to do it, if you’re interested in it, just do it,” she said. “Disregard any other comments or outside thoughts and stuff because it’s what matters to you, you know? Just go for it.”

Updated March 6, 2:22 p.m.: St. George News received comments from readers saying that Lydia Farnsworth will not be the first female to complete the Diesel Technician Certificate program at Dixie Technical College. St. George News reached out to Dixie Tech for clarification and received this statement from President Kelle Stephens:

“We are thrilled to celebrate Lydia’s success in our Diesel Technician Program. While we’ve had other women enrolled in the program, she is our first to complete the course and earn her Certificate in this high-demand field.  We look forward to many more of these successes as our program grows and we launch students on to successful career paths.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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