“Why are we learning this?” This is a perennial question teachers hear from students, who sometimes struggle to see the big picture: how their schoolwork is preparing them for life after graduation. But Career Connection, a new pilot program launched by non-profit organization Educurious, is helping students answer that question. Through networking events, work-based experiences, virtual mentoring, job shadows, and internships, the 800 Washington students involved in the pilot program are gaining a first-hand understanding of how what they’re learning in school is relevant to their future employment. They’re also building a strong network of professional contacts that they can carry with them on their paths beyond high school.

We spoke with Karla Hernandez-Gallegos, who will be a junior at West Seattle High School next year, about what she’s learned so far from the Career Connection program and how it’s preparing her for life after graduation.

What skills and knowledge did you apply in the work experience in the Career Connection program?

During school, I have been learning about professionalism and how to really get out there on my own to figure out and experiment my possibilities and interests. I used those professionalism skills at my job shadow and informational interview to really brainstorm and come up with questions that I truly wanted to hear to help me out in the future.

What is an example of a career you learned about in the program that really interests you? What about this career did you find interesting?   

Throughout my life, I’ve always had a passion for becoming a veterinarian or a veterinary technician. I always strived to do the best I can so I could end up working with all types of animals and help them feel healthy and loved. Career Connection opened opportunities to help me get closer to my goal of success in the veterinary field. I was able to have an informational interview with a real veterinarian. The fact that I can have a chance to really help and save animals’ lives pushes me to try harder to succeed in school.

As you learned about careers and the workplace, what surprised you? What did you learn that you weren’t expecting, or that you don’t think you would’ve known without the program?

Talking to the vet at Lien Animal Clinic really made me realize how much hard work needs to be put in to be able to save these animals’ lives. It also surprised me to learn how much studying is needed to become a veterinarian. Without the program I would have never had the chance to get that information from the vet.

How did this program make you feel more prepared to graduate and move into college or a career?

The Career Connection program made me even more excited about working in the animal field. It made me want to study and give my best to be able to graduate and attend a good college so that I can become a successful veterinarian. This program opened doors for me and made me look outside of the box to what my choices and possibilities are in my future. Thanks to Career Connection I am now set and ready to give it my all to be the best student I can be.

Watch this video to learn more about Karla’s experience with the Career Connection program!