Northeast High student becomes first from school's automotive program to become valedictorian

Caroline Daley may be small but she is mighty. And she never minds going the extra mile.

The Northeast High School senior is at the top of her class in the automotive school. She just gets it. The sophisticated, intricate inner workings of cars somehow make sense to her. 

"The easy part is fixing it," she explained. "It's figuring out what the problem is."

Caroline is good at getting to the bottom of things. The fix is fun and challenging. Maybe that's why being the valedictorian of Northeast High School was the next natural step.

"When they called me to tell me," she said, starting to grin a little, "they were like, 'Congratulations, you're valedictorian!' I was like, 'Oh my God!! I got it!!"

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Laughing now, she remembered the day well.

"It was one of those drop to your knees and yell, 'Yes!' moments for me."

It's been a lot of hard work, too: chemistry, physics, engineering, mechanics.

"I'm the first person from the automotive program at Northeast to be valedictorian. And I'm really proud of that achievement because it shows a technical career field like automotive –  which has always been seen as dirty work," she said while gesturing air quotes with her hands, "which it's not, because you have to have such an immense amount of intelligence to be successful in this."

And because she's worked so hard, she's earned the respect of those around her.  

"I don't see her fixing cars. I see her designing cars in the future," said instructor Brian Johnson. "It's hard work. It's something, as a teacher, you see very few students put the energy into. And she's done more than 100 percent – which is good to see."

Northeast High School partners with Pinellas Technical College. Right out of high school, these students can work for Ford, Range Rover/Land Rover, and McLaren. Some make $25 an hour by the time they're 21.

As for Caroline, the sky is the limit. Quite literally. Aerospace has her eye right now. Maybe a job at NASA one day. 

She's taking her time though. She'll be studying exploratory engineering at the University of South Florida's St. Pete campus after she graduates – and the road ahead looks pretty promising.