Educational Service District 112 celebrated the fourth annual STEM Rising Star and Regional Partner Awards ceremony at Clark College on Tuesday, June 4. Washington STEM and Career Connect Southwest (CCSW) recognized employees, partners, and students for their exceptional work to shape a culture of STEM innovation at schools across the Southwest Washington region.

“We do this because in every part of the state there are pockets of brilliance, resiliency and hope, and we want to nurture that. We want that to become our future in STEM,” said Lynne Varner, Washington STEM CEO.

Leaders in STEM education recognized the following individuals for STEM education in Southwest Washington:

Educator of the Year Award

Angelina Sarkinen, Career and College Specialist at Hockinson High School, was selected as the 2023-24 Educator of the Year for empowering students in grades 9-12 to proactively plan for postsecondary success. Over the last year, Sarkinen has worked with CCSW on projects including Limitless, Horizons, and more.

2024 Educator of the Year Angelina Sarkinen with Vickei Hrdina, Career Connect SW Executive Director at ESD 112

“It’s important to recognize underrepresented students and give them all the opportunities that are out there to really get them where they want to go–meeting them where they want, rather than pushing them down a pathway that’s just been a standard,” said Sarkinen.

Sarkinen leveraged Washington STEM High School to Postsecondary (H2P) resources to improve postsecondary outcomes for students in Hockinson. She is also a leader in the annual Launching Futures College and Career Fair at Hockinson High School. The 2024 event was the largest career fair in Hockinson history, drawing over 600 attendees.

“Angela brings responsive, customized career-connected learning and college and career advising to her students at Hockinson High School. Angela is a great partner of Career Connect Southwest. She does so much for her school and students, including putting on a very successful and well-attended college and career fair,” said Chad Mullen, Career Connected Learning Program Manager at ESD 112.

Advocate of the Year Award

Jessica Thompson, Admin Intern/District Instructional Coach at Lake Shore Elementary in Vancouver, was selected as 2023-24 Advocate of the Year by Career Connect Southwest. At Lake Shore, Jessica provides memorable, relevant career exploration experiences to K-5 students.

“I attended nPower Girls with miss Thompson, and it was awesome. I gained more self-confidence by attending the group. I would like to say thank you to the people who made nPower Girls a blast,” said Chioma, 5th grade student at Lake Shore Elementary.

Partner of the Year Award

LANXESS Kalama was selected as 2023-24 Partner of the Year. Amber Yarnell, Emily McBride, Natalie Keehan and Michelle Pfahles represented the chemistry company and accepted the award on behalf of LANXESS at the event.

“In addition to providing financial support to dozens of paid high school interns every summer, the research team at LANXESS has participated as mentors for nPower Girls, hosted job shadows and teacher externships and are currently preparing to bring an engineering showcase to Wishram School, over 100 miles away from their plant,” said Vickei Hrdina, Career Connect SW Executive Director at ESD 112.

STEM Rising Star Awards

The Washington STEM Rising Star Awards uplift girls who will become the next generation of STEM leaders. Women hold just 28% of all STEM jobs, which are the highest paying and most sustainable occupations in Washington state. This prestigious award recognizes girls who break barriers by making waves in male-dominated fields Students are nominated for the award by educators, business leaders, and mentors in their local communities based on their involvement and passion for STEM academics and activities.

Angelina Rodriguez-Caldwell presented with the 2024 Southwest Washington STEM Rising Star Award

Angelina Rodriguez-Caldwell, 9th grade student at Kelso High School, was presented with the 2024 Southwest Washington STEM Rising Star Award. She received a $500 stipend and will assume a year-long role representing Southwest Washington alongside ten other STEM Rising Stars from 11 Washington STEM Partner Networks across the state.

The following students received a $250 stipend from Career Connect SW and a swag basket from local partners, presented during the Network Awards Reception on June 4:

  • Elsie Lyon, Hockinson High School
  • Jaci Douglass, Stevenson High School
  • Angelina Rodriguez-Caldwell, Kelso High School

The event also included a celebration kick-off by nPower Girls program students and staff, dinner, and a special screening of the independent documentary Space, Hope, and Charity. Remarks by Vice President of Student Affairs at Clark College Dr. Michelle Cruse, Astrophysicist Charity Woodrum, Washington STEM CEO Lynne Varner, and 2023-24 STEM Rising Star Award Winner Lilli MacCauley recognized the talent of educators, students, and partners at the event.