Shirley Kaikai: Family inspired nursing dream; STEM laid path

Running Start courses in anatomy, biology and chemistry have prepared further studies at WSU.

Shriley Kaikai, a graduating senior at Kamiak High School, plans to attend WSU to study nursing. She recently participated in STEM Signing Day to honor students studying in STEM fields.

Shriley Kaikai, a graduating senior at Kamiak High School, plans to attend WSU to study nursing. She recently participated in STEM Signing Day to honor students studying in STEM fields.

By Shirley Kaikai / Herald Forum

I grew up in a family of nurses. My mom and aunts care for people each day using their training as nurses.

I first went to work with my mom when I was 10. When I started high school and began to think seriously about what career I wanted to pursue, I started to visit my mom at her hospital job more regularly and realized nursing is the path for me. I, too, love to care for people, which makes nursing a dream career for me.

To prepare for college, I have taken several prerequisites through Running Start at Edmonds Community College, including anatomy, biology and chemistry. They have gone well and confirmed my choice of nursing. I also had the opportunity to visit a hospital in Sierra Leone, where my family is from. The difficult conditions I encountered while on that trip inspired me to perhaps someday bring my nursing skills to care for people in my home country.

For now, I am planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Washington State University in Pullman. My experience there will help me choose a nursing specialty, such as maternity care, plastic surgery or the intensive care unit.

I was recently honored for my commitment to a STEM career during Washington State STEM Signing Day, presented by Boeing. The virtual event celebrated 49 high school seniors from across the state for our choices to pursue science, technology, engineering or math education at technical programs, two- and four-year colleges and universities. Like signing days for athletes, we each signed a letter of commitment to our STEM goals. As seniors whose high school careers were interrupted by the pandemic, it feels all the more exciting to be recognized for our perseverance and academic achievements.

Why honor STEM students? For one thing, we need more like us. The future of our state depends on more students getting opportunities to explore and succeed in STEM-related careers, from nursing and engineering to cybersecurity and computer science, fields my fellow honorees are pursuing. According to Washington Roundtable, an organization of CEOs and senior executives across our state, employers here will produce 373,000 net new jobs in the state over just the next five years. Most of those jobs will require a post-high school credential and, no doubt, a big percentage will be in STEM fields. The opportunities are out there waiting for us in Washington. We just need to get ready for them.

If you are a middle or high school student interested in the field of STEM, go after your dream job. Explore the many options available by learning more about what people working in your field of choice get to do each day by job shadowing and finding videos online. STEM fields can open many doors, and our communities are counting on us to turn our skills and passion into action.

Shirley Kaikai is a senior at Kamiak High School in Everett. She plans to pursue nursing at Washington State University in the fall.

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