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Supporting Student Development in Rural Washington

Teach For America Washington’s third Virtual Career Fair gave students an opportunity to interact with professionals in medical and STEM fields. 

Photo of Yakima by Michael S. Shannon

November 26, 2019

Virtual Career Fairs are the product of phenomenal Teach For America (TFA) alumni working in tandem with TFA Washington regional staff and our larger statewide network. The primary goal of this program is to allow students living in rural areas of the state to build connections with, and learn from, professionals working in STEM careers all over the state and across the country. These conversations are made possible through video conferencing and allow students to ask a wide array of questions with professionals they may otherwise never have the chance to meet. 

Our third Virtual Career Fair was hosted by Sara Crowston (Washington '14), the alumna who originally pitched the idea for Virtual Career Fairs and hosted our inaugural event at Highland High School in Cowiche. This event was focused on professionals in the medical and STEM industries, and allowed for students to see multiple sides of each path. Participating professionals included a radiologic technologist, a physician, a medical researcher, and several Microsoft employees.

“I am grateful to be able to speak to someone about these careers and get the advice that may help in the future.”

A participating student

It is important to know that these programs are making the desired impact, so we decided to survey all participating professionals and students. Here’s what we learned: when students are given the opportunity to succeed, they often do. All that it takes is opening up this line of communication and students then seize the moment to ask thoughtful and curious questions in conversations they personally lead.

When surveyed, 87 percent of students said they felt more confident applying to college after their conversations. Plus, 100 percent of students said they learned about a new career path and gathered valuable information, and all the participating professionals confirmed that they were able to provide valuable information to students.

“It was wonderful to connect with the students! I appreciated their thoughtful questions and wish them all the best!”

A participating professional

With the growing tech sector in the Seattle area, it is important that we prepare all students to learn, lead, and thrive as they exit high school and go on to their post-secondary pursuits. It is also imperative that we provide opportunities for students to create their own connections and voice their questions and concerns to professionals who can provide valuable insight.

Virtual Career Fairs provide an opportunity not only to develop knowledge around exciting career paths, but also the chance to practice leadership and inquiry. 

In addition to the professionals that volunteered to participate, this career-connected learning event was made possible by a grant from Boeing. If you would like information about how to host a Virtual Career Fair at your school, please reach out to Peyton Laughlin at

Photo by Michael S. Shannon