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Learning the tasks of the opposite sex can be empowering

February 19, 2007

YORK, Pa. (AP) - When Liz McArdle saw a pregnant woman on the side of the road in a rainstorm, she knew she had to help.

"She was standing there holding the tire iron looking confused," McArdle said.

As soon as the 18-year-old pulled over to help, the woman asked, "Oh thank God, can I get in my car?"

McArdle would never be satisfied letting someone else change her car tire. She is of the mind-set that women can do anything that men can do, sometimes even better. She attends the York County School of Technology, where she is one of five girls in a group of nearly 300 guys learning auto mechanics, welding and collision repair.

"I'm proving them all wrong," McArdle said. "I'm hardheaded like that."

McArdle likes to work with her hands, so in eighth grade she decided she wanted to be like the women she saw on TV who got their fingers greasy under the hood of a car. She was a little behind at first. She didn't have the muscle to budge the bolts when changing a tire and her male classmates always wanted the upper hand.

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She soon overcame that and earned the respect of her peers and teachers by being named shop foreman two years in a row. When she tells people outside school what she does, the girls think it's cool. The guys don't believe her at first, until they start asking mechanical questions and she can answer them.

All of Jacquan Jones' friends want to know when he is going to cook them dinner.

To many high school guys, that might be an insult or a way of calling him a pansy. Not for Jacquan, whose dream is to become a chef.

"Cooking is a life-building skill," the 17-year-old said.

Jacquan doesn't get too much flak for choosing a future career that involves being in the kitchen - something that was traditionally reserved for women.

When Jacquan was growing up, he used to make his foster mom breakfast. By the time he was 9, he was cooking eggs, frying bacon and buttering toast. He also learned to do his own laundry.

Being in the culinary program at York County School of Technology, Jacquan is in the minority. Instructor Gus Gianopoulos said 25 percent of the students are males.

"I know as much as they know or more," Jacquan said. "We teach each other."

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