Natalie Gutierrez | Staff Writer
FIU’s GearShifters allows vehicle enthusiasts to come together and pursue their passion for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and motorsports.
President Gillian Pons is a sophomore and behavioral neuroscience major. She believes the educational value of these spaces should not be underestimated.
“Ever since I was little, my dad loved cars. I used to have a truck and when I started having issues with it, this club allowed me to learn a lot,” said Pons.
“We want to make sure people know about cars and what to do in tricky situations. There are two sides to the car community, one is illegal, which is not our area at all, and the other is about creating healthy communities,” said Pons.
Henry Grau is a junior criminal justice major and vice president of the club. He notes that this niche interest helps foster meaningful relationships that are otherwise difficult to find.
“The purpose of the club is for like-minded people to have a place to express their ideas and talk about anything car-related. We find it hard to find these groups on your own outside of college,” said Grau.
Although the club encourages a sense of adventure, it strives to create a culture of safety.
“We don’t promote racing on the street or anything like that. I feel like there are safe ways to do things. Motorsports is fun, but you always have to wear a helmet and have a fire extinguisher in your car. You don’t want to hurt innocent people,” said Grau.
“We want members to show that they are good members of the car community and good members of society. We have rules and regulations because we stand for respect,” said Pons.
Kristy Mulet, an alumna, founded the club last fall. The rise of takeovers and stunt driving incentivized her to promote a safer approach.
“The car community tends to be male-dominated so, as a girl, starting this club was intimidating. I’m proud that Gillian was able to take over. The girls get together and the guys aren’t judgmental,” said Mulet.
“I noticed that in the car scene, there were rotten apples. It was becoming less about the art and more about the danger, so I thought that FIU would be the best place to get back to our roots,” said Mulet.
In addition, GearShifters is intentional about supporting philanthropic causes.
Last spring, the club hosted “Ride for Life” with Delta Tau Delta. The event took place at the Engineering Center and included a car show, car competition and bake sale. The proceeds went to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“I coordinated this event because we found that inside the car community, there are mental health issues. A lot of us either struggled with suicidality or knew someone who attempted suicide. I know how much cars can be an escape from reality, but we are all going through the same stuff,” said Mulet.
Pons shared her view regarding the importance that mental health education has within the car community.
“Educating others about issues, like depression and suicidal thoughts, is important. It should be talked about,” said Pons.
Emphasizing the community, Grau mentioned the intersection of foreign cars and the benefit of car enthusiasts networking.
“At the event, there were German cars and Japanese cars. Typically, at a car show, the main thing is to go and talk with other car enthusiasts. It is a very tight-knit community,” said Grau.
More recently, the club hosted a “Trunk or Treat” fundraiser. Members sold entrance tickets and held a costume contest. They raised $205 for children’s cancer research.
“We have built friendships that transcend age and the type of car you have. At GearShifters, you will see an 80-year-old, who loves trucks, talking to one of us and we are in our 20s.”