Issaquah Chamber of Commerce Director Kathy McCorry addresses the high school students at the chamber’s sixth annual Great Careers conference. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Issaquah Chamber of Commerce Director Kathy McCorry addresses the high school students at the chamber’s sixth annual Great Careers conference. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Great Careers event shows Issaquah students there’s nothing wrong with path less traveled

A four-year college isn’t the only path to success

In the Issaquah School District, 20 percent of students do not go on to four-year colleges.

So does that mean that one-fifth of ISD students are not successful? Absolutely not.

And it is this message — that there are other career paths besides the standard four-year university track — that the Issaquah Chamber gave local high school students at the sixth annual Great Careers conference on Thursday at Bellevue College.

Held in partnership with the Issaquah Schools Foundation, Bellevue College, the Seattle-King County Workforce Development Council and the Issaquah School District, the all-day conference showed students from Issaquah, Skyline, Liberty and Gibson Ek high schools the variety of different well-paying careers they can achieve with a two-year degree or certification.

Twenty-three businesses and 14 community and technical colleges came to the conference to reach out to the young people in attendance and advise them on their career paths, giving the teenagers unique networking opportunities.

Issaquah Chamber of Commerce Director Kathy McCorry said that the Issaquah Chamber Education Committee — which views today’s youth as tomorrow’s business leaders — decided to organize the conference because “we learned that sometimes students [in the 20 percent] can feel bad about that in high school and can withdraw a bit.”

The goal was to show those students that there was nothing wrong with them for not wanting to go the university route and to let them know about all the kinds of careers from which they could choose. McCorry said that careers attainable with two-year degrees or certifications can range from working with animals to fitness to aerospace to beauty to construction. These jobs can be very high-paying, and people who follow these paths can end up running their own businesses.

“We wanted to see what we could do to end that stigma, to reinforce that these are great careers,” McCorry said.

In the Issaquah School District in particular — a district known throughout the state for its exceptionally high achievers — McCorry said that it can be very difficult for students who know that they want to do something different.

“That artistic person might be saying, ‘I don’t want to be a doctor,’” McCorry explained. “They start feeling challenged. But the reality is, there are so many great options out there.”

And with the program having been in place for several years now, McCorry said that she has heard back from students who attended the conference in its first year or two and have since landed jobs in their chosen fields. The Great Careers conference “solidified their choices in their minds, showed them the opportunities at colleges around here and put them on the path to go to school,” McCorry explained.

As the conference wrapped up on Thursday, McCorry told the students that she hoped to work with them in the coming years as leaders in the local business community.

“I want to see you out there, leading the way in Issaquah, running your own companies … I want to see your faces and I want to get you working in our community because you are our future,” McCorry told the kids.

Hundreds of students from the four high schools in the Issaquah School District attended the event. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Hundreds of students from the four high schools in the Issaquah School District attended the event. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

About 23 businesses and 14 community and technical colleges were present at the event to network with students. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

About 23 businesses and 14 community and technical colleges were present at the event to network with students. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

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