by Heather Wallace
Special to the Sounder
Back in the late 90s when I was in college at the University of Washington, I was accepted as an intern in the KOMO 4 News Sports department. I had a dream to become a sports broadcaster (back when there weren’t many women doing it) and I knew it would be a great way to get some experience. It was pretty exhilarating sitting center court watching games from the media box, rubbing shoulders with famous athletes, and walking the field pre-game in the old Kingdome. That internship taught me a lot. But the best lesson I learned was that I actually did not want to be a sports broadcaster.
There really is no experience like hands-on learning. And for kids growing up on a secluded island, it’s very difficult to encounter these types of opportunities pre-graduation. The benefits of being able to learn from people who have the very experience in a field you’re looking to go into, could not be more important though.
I thrive on getting to know people’s stories and how they ended up doing what they’re doing. In the last year or so I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Singapore and ride in a self-driving vehicle. I’ve interviewed some of the brightest up-and-coming minds in the field of robotics, and even toured the infamous SpaceX facility (did you know they have a competitive, paid internship program for college students?). Innovation is going on everywhere and the way we learn has to keep up with that change. Jobs that seem like they have stayed the same for ages are changing rapidly – taxis, hotels, home insurance, delivery systems, and space travel are just a handful of industries that have experienced recent disruption.
In the coming weeks, I will be writing the first of what I hope to be many articles featuring past alumni and current residents of the island community. Their resumes will vary widely. I’ll be talking to graduates who performed at the top of their classes as well as people who barely made it out of high school. You’ll hear accidental success stories as well as careers that have been carefully planned out. There may be a mix of MBAs, Ph.D.s, trade laborers, and small business owners.
And why such an array of backgrounds, you ask? Because I don’t think success should be determined by a single circumstance. I was a pretty good student in high school and I remember feeling limited by what I saw as job opportunities. I want better for the youth in our community. I want them to feel inspired and hopeful when they move on to the next phase in their life. To know that there are a plethora of choices out there today. I want them to be able to get their hands a little dirty before they decide to stay or go.
My goal in all of this? To help connect kids with people who have the experience and stories they need to know.
Our educators have a lot on their hands and limited resources will never allow for every need to be covered. But as individuals in our community, we have an opportunity to focus on what we can each do to encourage our youth. We have experience. The San Juan Islands are packed with some of the most fascinating, genuine, and successful people I’ve ever met. If we are willing, we have a wealth of information and knowledge available to anyone who seeks it.
I know in our private, small community some of us like to hide. We want to be left alone to do our own thing. But your life experiences could help a kid decide on a college major or understand that wanting to work with their hands is okay. That those ideas people call “crazy” are actually innovation. That entrepreneurship, as glamorous as it sounds, can be a rigorous assault on your senses.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this series as well as any suggestions on potential interviewees. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.