Workshops introduce middle schoolers to new career paths

By Christina Latham


Whatcom Community College is offering a chance for middle school students to explore non-traditional career paths for their future. The “Guys & Guts” and “Girls Go Tech” workshops, aimed towards youth ages 11 to 14, are all-day workshops held by the college to introduce male youth to healthcare professions and female youth to technology fields.

Trish Newbold, Whatcom’s workforce education coordinator, helped to put the workshops together. She said they are intended to help middle school students learn about careers they might not otherwise consider, in part because of gender gaps in the occupational fields.

“Guys & Guts” was held March 15. Nine students and their parents or guardians attended and explored the medical field through a variety of activities. They looked at the roles medical assistants, nurses, physical therapists play in the field.

Ben White, a student in Whatcom’s medical assisting program, showed the boys how an electric cardio gram (ECG) works. Other medical assisting students discussed the importance of proper hand washing and showed them how to use an asthma testing machine.

The children also had a chance to practice drawing blood on a mannequin arm, using red Kool-Aid as blood.

Holly Snow, a parent whose son attended the workshop, said her son “came last year and loved it. [It] opens your eyes to all the

different careers as well as the new programs Whatcom offers.”

When they learned about nursing careers, the children were taught how to take their parents’ blood pressure as well as how to work with a medical mannequin that simulates different body functions. They were able to hear healthy breathing compared to wheezing and a regular heartbeat compared to an irregular heartbeat.

Margret Hamalton, who attended the workshop with her son Skylar, said he is interested in a career in the medical field. Skylar is a survivor of brain and spinal cancer and has thought about working at Seattle Children’s Hospital, she said.

Skylar Hamalton said “I didn’t know training for this job could be so exciting!”

The boys were also able to observe a class of nursing students go through a simulated birthing scenario in which the mannequin had just given birth and was still bleeding. The nursing students dealt with post-partum bleeding and inserted a catheter.

Lyle Dollarhide, who is in the nursing program at Whatcom and attended the workshop with his son, spoke during lunch about how he got into the nursing program. “I get choked up because I value nursing, I care so much about caring for other people,” he said as he teared up. “Everyone along the way [at Whatcom] cared about me.”

Whatcom biology instructor Michelle Bennett had a variety of stations set up that the students could explore using their senses. There was a test involving chimes to find out which pitches were audible and which were inaudible as well as a colorblindness test. They also got to touch a real human skeleton and a sheep heart.

Two anatomy students were there to answer any questions the children had and to talk with them about studying anatomy.

To conclude the day, the students and parents split into two groups for the parents to have a chance to learn more about Whatcom and the students to talk about what they had learned and their thoughts on the day.

Funding for the workshops is provided largely by the Carl D. Perkins Grant, said Newbold, which covers areas like Math and Medical Assisting. It is a yearly grant that Whatcom applies for. Other funding is provided by the Bellingham Lion’s Club, Bellingham Kiwanis, and the College Access Challenge Grant.

Mary Vermillion, director for marketing and communications at Whatcom, said the “Guys & Guts” workshop has been held since spring 2011 and “Girls Go Tech” since spring 2010.

The workshops started to help middle school students become interested in these fields early on, Vermillion said.

Parents and guardians have a chance to learn more about Whatcom and what the college has to offer their students, Newbold said. “The workshops are also a chance to educate the parents on what funding and scholarships are available, as well as what a college looks like,” she said.

“Girls Go Tech” will be offered April 19 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. A $10 fee covers one student and her accompanying parent or guardian, and includes lunch for two and a T-shirt from the program. Newbold said the workshop will expose girls to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Computer forensics, robotics and design will be the focus of the workshop. The girls will work with a representative from the Bellingham Police Department as well as a Whatcom criminal justice graduate, Newbold said.

Registration forms for the “Girls Go Tech” are online at Those interested can also contact Lori Gardner at or call (360) 383-3190.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *