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Students and professionals connect at Summit career fair

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - High school students in the leadership class at Summit Learning Charters Virtual Academy stand proud at the school's second annual career fair, an event they organized.

The uniforms, helmets and boots spilled off the table, giving students at Summit Learning Charter a glimpse into the life of a firefighter.

“I like sharing the job of a firefighter with kids who are interested, and helping them get excited about it,” said Pat Delair of the Clackamas Fire District.

Delair was one of more than 20 vendors at the school’s second-annual career fair on Wednesday, Feb. 17, organized by the high school leadership class at Summit’s virtual academy.

The school’s gymnasium was a bustle of activity, with students visiting with representatives from Boeing, Trillium Midwifery and Women’s Health, New Seasons Market and Concordia University.

Students invited vendors to the event and helped them check in once they arrived at the Eagle Creek campus on Highway 211.

“Students really take ownership of the event,” said Kim Carins, who teaches the high school leadership class.

Students ranging from elementary through high school attended the event, which engaged them with potential careers in several ways.

“We tried to offer a variety of career paths,” said Marybeth Conaway, a counselor at the school. “We have everything from jobs you can get straight out of high school to ones that require four-year degrees.”

In addition to speaking with professionals, students drew silhouettes of different professions that decorated the school hallways.

Sean Gallagher, principal at Summit Learning Charter, said the school seeks to engage students with possibilities for their future.

“It’s about students discovering what their future can be,” he said. “We want to nurture those interests and help them execute their dreams.”

To achieve this goal, Summit hopes to offer future electives based on what sparks students’ interest at the career fair.

Students enjoy the event, too.

“The best part is meeting everyone and learning about their different jobs,” said Jake Gunderson, a senior in the school’s leadership class.

Since much of Summit’s learning is conducted remotely, school administrators feel opportunities for in-person enrichment and support, such as the career fair, are valuable.

Summit offers several different learning options: an elementary school with about 200 students, a virtual academy for six through 12th-graders with 300 students and an early college for students in grades 10 through 12 with 300 students.

In addition to participating in live online classes, elementary school students work with a “learning coach,” typically a parent, for further support. Middle and high school students in the school’s virtual academy can choose from more than 200 online classes. Additionally, high school students enrolled in Summit’s Early College Program take classes from local community colleges to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.

Teachers are on Summit’s campus several days a week for tutoring and enrichment opportunities, such as the Lego robotics club, and the virtual academy’s high school leadership class plans a monthly event to build community. Past events have included dances, movie nights and a talent show.

Conaway likes the career fair in particular because it allows visitors to learn more about the school.

“Visitors can come to the school and see faces and heartbeats,” she said. “It really builds community.”

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