Arizona Student is Too Young to Drive Yet Parlaying Love of Cars into Career Dream

Kelsey Knight, 15, hopes to one day become a master mechanic and open a repair shop catering to women.

Kelsey-Knight-Yavapai-College-automotive-tech-student
Kelsey Knight is learning to repair cars before she can legally drive them. Image via Yavapai College’s Facebook page.

Kelsey Knight’s fascination with cars dates to sleepless nights as a toddler when she would awaken her father, curl up in his lap, and the pair would scroll through internet images of all manner of vehicles past and present.

Today, cars fuel the 15-year-old and still-unlicensed driver’s dream of becoming a master mechanic and opening a repair shop catering to women.

Knight achieved the first milestone in her career quest in the fall, earning her first ASE certification in Yavapai College’s ASE-accredited automotive program, for entry-level brakes. She plans to continue progressing in YC’s automotive program through Mountain Institute Career and Technical Education District. A class in electrical systems is up next this semester.

“I’ve always loved cars. They’re just so cool. I thought it was really cool that they’re so complicated,” she said about her unique and youthful interest sparked over time by first watching then helping her father maintain, repair and upgrade their family vehicles.

On a recent weekend, Knight, who also is a dancer and violinist, invested a couple of hours helping her father replace the steering wheel in their Tesla. “It was really fun,” she said, adding that although electric cars are amazing, she favors gas-powered vehicles, especially Corvettes.

Along with her dad, Erik, Knight's mom, Hayle, enthusiastically supports her daughter’s career dream and was the catalyst for her enrolling at YC.

“There was an opportunity there and I thought, ‘why not?’” Knight said of taking YC classes while also attending high school online.

“I felt really good about myself,” she said of her first-semester success.

“It’s a very encouraging place,” she said of YC.

Bob Moon, one of Knight's automotive instructors last semester, said he had no doubt she would pass her first ASE exam because she works extremely hard and is focused.

“She is always eager to learn and shows up with a smile and plenty of energy. She is building a solid foundation for her skills in the automotive industry and I look forward to continuing to work with her through her schooling,” he said.

Not surprisingly, Knight was the youngest student in her fall-semester automotive class at YC’s Career and Technical Education Center. She also was the only female student to complete the basic course and earn her initial ASE. She laments women are under-represented in the auto repair industry and she fears female car owners may not always get a fair shake at the repair shop. Hence the dream to help them.

“I want to own a shop where girls don’t get ripped off because they don’t know anything. That’s the goal,” she said.

A more immediate goal of Knight's is getting her driver’s license. “I’ve never been behind the wheel before,” she said, aware of the irony of knowing more about what’s under a car’s hood than negotiating a left turn.

However, she said, “it’s a huge relief to know that once I get behind the wheel I’ll know what’s happening.”

For information about YC’s automotive program and other in-demand career-training opportunities, visit yc.edu/cte.

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