President and CEO of Washington Alliance for Better Schools Emily Yim stands up for student success

Meet Emily Yim, a trailblazer in education who is shaping futures and bridging gaps in access and exposure.

Emily Yim’s work gives students the opportunity to be exposed to career opportunities and what goes on in the workplace.

Emily Yim may have left the University of Washington with a political science degree 24 years ago, but she didn’t leave education behind. As president and CEO of the Washington Alliance for Better Schools, a nonprofit dedicated to improving opportunity for students in the state, she leads an organization whose footprint includes more than 315,000 students and serves more than 27,000 individuals annually.

“A major area of work we prioritize … is to amplify the voices of the student and parent in the community, working with family partners, school partners and the student community to build programs that are relevant,” says Yim, ’00. She was previously vice president of the community and external affairs division for Chase Bank, where one of her focuses was K-12 education. “The mission of the organization is to help lead partnership work that rallies support for students who are further from opportunity to align to their passions and their dreams.”

One shining example is the After School STEM Academy. “The strategy for working with students is around a continuum of learning in K-12,” she says. “Engaging in STEM, we encourage schools to have it be interactive, messy, fun and loud. We bring in community partners to facilitate lessons. It’s important because you want to focus on building durable skills, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.”

The Career Tours program serves students who have not been exposed to career opportunities, including BIPOC, low income and first generation. Students visit a workplace and see what a company does, hear from employees about their educational and professional pathways and participate in work-based learning activities. These experiences, as part of career-connected learning, give students insight into what careers are possible and an understanding of some of the skills sought by employers.

For Yim, a highlight of 13 years in her role has been seeing an evolution of the consortium grow from a small group of districts to multiple counties statewide. “But what I value the most is all of the people I’ve been able to meet when you talk about students and families and volunteers,” she says. “When families have an interest in engaging in their schools and we can help them come up with their own vision and action plan to be a cultural bridge to their own community, it’s great to see the effect on many things, including learning.”

Yim’s son, Carter, is set to follow in his mother’s footsteps this fall by attending the UW—the only school he applied to. “U-Dub is where I wanted to go,” she recalls. “I’m excited for him to gain great experiences just like I did… There is so much to learn.”