Career fair speakers, exhibitors draw huge crowd

Activist and actress Q'orianka Kilcher caught her audience by surprise when she began singing All I Could Do Was Cry, by Etta James, during her presentations at the NWIC-NOAA Career Fair.
From April 23 through April 25, the Northwest Indian College (NWIC) campus was alive with enthusiasm, inspirational voices and curiosity about what options lie ahead.

During those three days, the NWIC-NOAA Career Fair brought together NWIC students – some from as far away as NWIC’s Nez Perce campus – with local high school students and community members. Attendees got the inside scoop from representatives of graduate schools, tribal and government organizations and businesses, and learned how to market themselves to potential employers.  

One first-year NWIC student to attend the event is Shoshaunee Elliott, who is working on a general direct transfer degree. Elliott attended many of the workshops and keynotes, and said the exhibits were the most helpful for her because they provided information for everyone – including those working on their two-year degrees – for what options are out there.

“It was good and really interesting,” Elliott said. “I learned a lot; there was more information than I expected about careers and opportunities. My favorite part was the keynote speakers. It was something probably some of us had never seen before.” 

Keynote speakers this year included Hollywood celebrity and human rights and environmental activist Q’orianka Kilcher, who spoke April 24. More than 100 people saw that presentation. 

NWIC Native American Studies (NAS) instructor Steve Pavlik, who got to know Kilcher shortly after the 2005 release of “The New World,” said she helped open the eyes of students as to the degree that Indigenous peoples in Peru and elsewhere are being exploited by corporations, especially oil companies, and the corrupt governments that support them. 

“Her presentation was powerful – clear, passionate, inspiring,” Pavlik said. “I had the opportunity to talk to my NAS 110 class afterward and they were all impressed by her. They all felt that she had given them much to think about.”

On the morning of April 25, Lummi pro soccer player Temryss Lane spoke to the crowd

NWIC student Forest Callaghan visits with a Puget Sound Energy representative, one of the many wonderful exhibitors at the career fair.
about bravery – 65 people signed in for that presentation, but more were present.

In the afternoon and evening on the same day, artist and activist John Trudell also presented, although not technically as part of the career fair. He packed the facilities both times. 

In all, 530 people attended the career fair – a number that only includes people who signed in, which is lower than the actual total. Wayne Woods, NWIC student executive board advisor and instructor, said more people attended this year’s career fair than attended last year. Workshops were attended at significantly larger numbers as were keynote speakers, he said.

Victoria Retasket, NWIC student activities coordinator, said she has heard a lot of positive feedback from students about the event, and said there were very positive evaluations for all of the events.

“Our students are drawn to opportunities that allow them to give back to their communities,” Retasket said. “I’m proud of our students for taking full advantage of the exhibitors and speakers.” 

From her perspective, Retasket said this year’s career fair highlight was the impressive number of exhibitors that turned out to provide information and opportunities for students. 

“We had local exhibitors and guests from afar,” she said. “Many of our exhibitors doubled as panel presenters, and they shared very helpful information with our students regarding internships, career exploration, and networking skills. I am very grateful to all those who made it possible for this event to happen. I had very high expectations, but this event exceeded those expectations.”