From Co-op to Career: Part 1 – Early Decisions & Influences that Impacted My Future

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Who decided that at the age of seventeen that you must make decisions that affect the rest of your life? At seventeen, I was a senior in high (at Saint Ursula Academy) school googling every college to get me far away from northwestern Ohio. I was over the cold, icy winters that lasted from October through March and was only concerned about finding a school where I could do my homework while lying on the beach. This was a very different concern compared to my classmates. My classmates were having nervous breakdowns because they did not know what they wanted to study. I, however, was very fortunate and only needed to decide what engineering program I liked the best.

Engineering was all I knew growing up. My father and two older sisters were all practicing engineers and my brother was in Information Technology by the time I started college. My siblings and I give full credit to my parents for this. Their influence instilled in us all the qualities to be a successful engineer. Here are a few of those qualities:  


  •  Continuously seeking “how” and “why” things happen is the first sign of an engineer. Starting at a young age my parents encouraged science-related conversations. Every night we would sit down at the dinner table and somehow, we would end up talking about the most random things. We would discuss how products are made and how they could be improved, from how silverware is made to how nuclear power plants work. Yes, my father is a Nuclear Engineer. This kept us thinking and helped us develop a questioning attitude.
  •  Three-part communication was a habit around our household. This ensured that there was an accurate understanding of what was being said. By doing this we were kept accountable because there was no way to say that you didn’t hear what someone said. You don’t want someone to pass the green beans when you asked for the green Jell-O.
  •  Taking my time was huge when it came to schoolwork. Even though I was very active in extracurricular activities (making my nights jammed packed), my dad would check over all my science related homework before I went to bed to ensure it was done correctly and thoroughly. If it didn’t meet his standards, we would sit down delaying my bedtime and start all over. I quickly learned that if I took my time and completed the work meeting his standards, I would be able to have more leisure (or sleep!) time. I learned that completing tasks correctly the first time might take longer at first, but you will not have to go back and fix it later.
  • Being smart and social is perfectly acceptable. My parents made sure that we knew this at a young age. They never wanted us to fit into the typical “engineering” stereotype. One thing they did to ensure this was to encourage getting out of the house. They were gracious enough to take us to all our activities. I participated in dance, gymnastics, diving, cross country, volleyball, softball, soccer, basketball, and more. The lessons you learn from sports can be just as important as lessons in school. I was able to learn teamwork, leadership, and effective communication.

My parents raised me in a way that made it very apparent that I should follow an engineering path in college. So, when it came time for the college search, I was very fortunate in the sense that I just looked for great engineering schools. After being accepted to many schools close to the beach and close to home (one being my parent’s alma mater), I still was unsure on what to do. When I was offered a spot on the University of Cincinnati Dance Team where I could also study Chemical Engineering at the school where the co-op program was invented, my decision a no brainer.


Little did I know that what my parents had taught me would be put to the test when I started at UC. Being a student-athlete, I had to learn how to balance my schedule, maintain my grades, and build my resume all while staying motivated. This adjustment was huge for me and I will be writing about it throughout my six-part blog series. Make sure to follow my journey!


Go Bearcats!


  Caroline Kelley


Caroline Kelley is a Chemical Engineering student at the University of Cincinnati and will be graduating in May 2020.  She began a Co-op at AP Tech  in 2017. Upon graduation, she will be working full-time  with AP Tech as a Chemical Engineer in the role of Product Manager.

Continue to Part 2 – Click Here

 Caroline and her family at high school graduation

Caroline’s senior picture (high school)