Pursuing your passions is the first step to launching your career.

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 Pursuing your passions is the first step to launching your career. Pursuing what you care about can change the world. It starts with recognizing the things you hold dear – your ideas and your ideals – then acting on them.

Take University of Washington senior Starla Sampaco. The Bellevue native knew she wanted to get into broadcast journalism when she first saw Rudi Bakhtiar on CNN’s “Headline News.” “I think what stood out about Rudi was that you could tell she really cared,” says Sampaco. “Even as an 8-year-old child, I picked up on her empathy, and it made me care, too.”

In high school, as an on-camera reporter for local youth media show “What’s Good, 206?,” she interviewed everyone from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray to Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman. “That experience affirmed my desire to pursue journalism at the UW,” Sampaco says.

So she did – adding a degree in law, societies and justice along the way – and hit the ground running, working her way up to digital projects editor at The Daily, producing videos and even interning at KING 5.

Sampaco got real-world experience inside the classroom also. “Seattle Times photographer Erika Schultz taught a photojournalism class at the UW, and she’s become one of my mentors,” says Sampaco. “She taught me the importance of diversity and inclusion both in front of the camera and behind the camera, and really changed my approach to video journalism.”

That knowledge has bolstered her goals. “My dream is to share stories involving immigration and underrepresented communities,” says Sampaco, whose own parents immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines to give her and her sister access to a world-class education. “The most rewarding stories to tell are the ones that amplify the voices of people who are often silenced or ignored. By giving them that platform, there are a lot of people we can help.”

Mayowa Aina of Tacoma is also parlaying her passions into a career path. The UW senior hopes to use her degrees in international studies and informatics for the public good.

Mayowa Aina, University of Washington senior and Rainy Dawg Radio host. (University of Washington)
Mayowa Aina, University of Washington senior and Rainy Dawg Radio host. (University of Washington)

Aina was particularly inspired by a trip to Peru the summer before her junior year, when she had the opportunity to learn firsthand from artists, community leaders and scholars how a post-conflict nation deals with collective memory and trauma. “There was this really close relationship between the expression of art and the political things that were happening in the community, and I wanted to continue to unpack that idea in the context of my community here in Seattle,” she says.

She had the opportunity to do just that on Rainy Dawg Radio, where she hosts a show that explores the intersection of art and politics by interviewing local musicians, dancers, visual artists, DJs and producers. “I talk with them about what inspires their work, what they’re seeing in our community and what sort of activism they’re involved in,” Aina says. She’s also working on an audio project, “Letters from Young Activists,” where concerned citizens can write letters to anyone or anything. The theme: “What is your vision for a more just and equitable society?”

And as a member and former president of the Black Student Union, Aina had the opportunity to serve as an advocate for black students on the UW campus. “There are a lot of really difficult but important topics we have to discuss about race and politics and intersectionality,” she says. “It was nice to have a space to speak freely while figuring out how to make certain decisions.”

For Aina, change starts with conversation – and she expects that be part of her journey after graduation. “Ultimately, I want to do something that’s collaborative, creative, hands-on and rooted in community service,” she says. “I want to do something that makes a difference.”

Whether it’s turning a love of storytelling into a future in broadcast journalism or making a difference in our communities through art and activism, starting your career means starting with what you care about.

Learn more about the student experience and discover what comes next for you at uw.edu.