On June 6, Educational Service District 112 celebrated the second annual STEM Rising Star and Regional Partner Awards at a dinner co-hosted by Washington STEM and Career Connect Southwest at their conference center in Vancouver.

Students, families, educators, and industry partners and staff, along with a special guest, Washington State Representative Monica Stonier, came together to honor this year’s nPower Girls participants, 11 STEM Rising Star nominees, and the regional partners who have been working together to provide career-connected learning opportunities for students throughout the Southwest Washington region.

The packed agenda included recognition of the following people for their work to support students across the Southwest Washington region.

Regional Partners of the Year Awards

Educator of the Year Award

Presented to Kaylene Herman, Dean of Students, Pacific Crest Innovation Academy (PCIA), Mill A School District

Kaylene Herman was selected as 2021-22 Educator of the Year for her resourceful and innovative work to provide career-connected learning opportunities for her students at PCIA. In the last school year, the CCSW team worked with Kaylene on many projects, including a guest speaker series with career professionals and student internships for her seniors. Kaylene is flexible and responsive to opportunities as they come up, and she advocates strongly for the best interest of all her students.

Advocate of the Year Award

Presented to Margaret Rice, Director of CTE and Culinary Services, Washougal School District

Margaret Rice was selected as 2021-22 Advocate of the Year by Career Connect Southwest. Margaret has been invaluable to so much of CCSW’s work. Margaret is thoughtful, resourceful, and always looking for worthwhile opportunities for her teachers and students. In the last school year, she connected her educators to CCSW’s Flipped Internships and Teacher Externships, and she has been a strong advocate for students in several of our work groups focused on building career pathways across the region.

Industry Partner of the Year Award

Presented to Rich Gushman, President, Gibbs & Olson

Rich Gushman was selected as 2021-22 Industry Partner of the Year for his collaboration and innovation as an industry partner in high-impact career-connected learning projects, including his successful flipped internships with R.A. Long High School in the Longview School District. In that project, Rich and his team worked closely with students on a project based on authentic work from Gibbs & Olson, a well-known civil engineering firm and consistent supporter of career-connected learning in our region. Rich is a great advocate for his industry and his employer, and he goes out of his way to support and get to know the students he works with.

The Washington STEM Rising Star Awards highlight the young thinkers, scientists, engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurs who will become the next generation of STEM leaders. The students were nominated for the STEM honor by educators, business leaders, and others in their local communities based on their involvement and passion for STEM academics and activities.

“All of the nominees represent incredibly bright and accomplished STEM-focused students,” said Vickei Hrdina, Executive Director of Career Connect SW. “Of course, this is a major personal accomplishment, but more broadly it serves as an inspiration for all girls to reach for the stars and embrace STEM!”

STEM Rising Star Awards

STEM Rising Star Southwest Regional Awardees

Presented to:

  • Audrey Zdunich, R.A. Long High School, representing the Columbia River STEM Network
  • Alexis Manning, Pacific Crest Innovation Academy, representing the Gorge STEM Network
  • Kaylee Kirkelie, Ridgefield High School, representing the Clark County STEM Network

Southwest Washington STEM Rising Star Award

Presented to Audrey Zdunich, R.A. Long High School, representing the Columbia River STEM Network