Finding meaning in a personal tragedy

Zarine Bharda, Director of Asia Pacific Operations for CONTROLTEC, established an award in memory of her friend Sergio Bettencourt.Zarine Bharda turned to Fanshawe to help her find meaning in a personal tragedy. In 2008, she established the Sergio M.C. Bettencourt Memorial Award to ensure the memory of her high school sweetheart – a graduate of Fanshawe who passed away at the age of 23 – would live on.

During a recent visit to London, Zarine described Sergio as being a natural in his field; a care-free, fun-loving person who, “loved anything to do with wheels and speed.”

They met in a Grade 11 auto shop class at London's Saunders Secondary School. She recalls how they became quick friends over a shared passion for fixing cars. They each had their own reclamation project – she repaired her mother's car that was damaged in an accident; he completely restored a 1990 Toyota Celica.

It wasn't long before they were dating.

After high school, Zarine moved to Windsor to pursue a Mechanical Engineering degree. Sergio stayed in London, finding work at Toyota Town, which sponsored him to enroll in Fanshawe's Automotive Service Technician (Apprenticeship) program.

In 2007, with both approaching their respective graduations, Sergio received a job offer in California. The couple planned to relocate, get married and dreamed of eventually opening their own garage where Sergio would handle the mechanics and Zarine the body work.

Their dream turned into a nightmare when Sergio died in a motorcycle accident just days after graduation. “The accident put a halt to everything,” she recalls.

Today, Zarine lives in India where she works as Director of Asia Pacific Operations for CONTROLTEC, a worldwide provider of vehicle data recorders that help automotive manufacturers remotely test and develop car, truck and bus prototypes before they hit the market. “The memories I have of (Sergio) have definitely pushed me to become the person I am today,” she says.

Zarine established the annual award as a means of recognizing a graduate in the Motive Power program who demonstrates the same passion and dedication that Sergio had for the profession. “Students with the highest marks receive most awards, but they may not have the most passion for the job,” she says.

“Mechanics don't make a lot to start, so any money is a big help,” she says, adding that it can cost upwards of $10,000 to fill a tool box with the necessary equipment. “This award is a token of appreciation to help them establish themselves in the automotive industry. It's about giving them a bit of extra cash to help them get a tool they've had their eye on.”

In 2013, Zarine renewed her commitment to keep the award active through 2018.