New Tech Community Event Spotlight: Jess Tholmer, OpportunityTalks

Each week in the New Tech Newsletter we feature a Spotlight Q&A with founders, angels, New Tech alumni presenters, and other people or companies in our community we believe you’d like to learn about. Reach out if you’d like to recommend a startup, founder, angel, accelerator, or New Tech alumni presenter for us to spotlight for the PNW tech community!

In this week’s spotlight we caught up with Jess Tholmer, Events and Sponsorship Manager for OpportunityTalks

How does your event serve the tech community?

Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) is the first public-private scholarship program dedicated to building lasting pathways to post-secondary education in high-demand STEM, health care, and trade careers for Washington students. OpportunityTalks brings Scholars, alums, corporate decision-makers, and partners together to share space, network with each other, and get inspired about the future of Washington state’s workforce development. Opportunity Scholars come from every corner of Washington state and have gone on to become scientists, nurses, engineers, and more. Our free event brings together community leaders in the tech field who are ready to power Washington students to power Washington state. Our event is a fundraising luncheon, though we invite everyone to attend, even if they can’t give! Register online before May 3 at  

 What do you love the most about this event?

I love hearing the stories of some truly incredible students in Washington state. More than 8,000 Scholars have achieved their bachelor’s degree, more than 500 Career & Technical Scholars have successfully graduated with a degree or certification, and our newest program, the Graduate Scholarship program, has supported almost 30 advanced nurse practitioner students who want to work in medically underserved areas, all with WSOS’s support. OpportunityTalks is the one time of year we get to come together—Scholars, donors, and supporters—and share those stories. The energy is vibrant, and it’s a lot of fun.  

 What is one of the highlights or memorable moments for you in doing this work?

Last year, our keynote speaker was an Opportunity Scholar who shared how she and a few other Opportunity Scholars had formed a group at the University of Washington to encourage educational achievement in young students from underrepresented backgrounds. I love hearing about Scholars and alums connecting and inspiring each other to creatively strategize, incorporating their WSOS connections with their future personal and professional goals. It was so cool to hear her talk about it. She did a great job speaking to a room of 600 people, and I felt really proud of what WSOS helps students to do — focus on their studies rather than their finances.  

 Does the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship have any volunteer opportunities?

Yes! At WSOS, we support low- and middle-income Scholars to help them overcome obstacles to higher education. These supports include financial assistance, career readiness training, and mentorship opportunities. We have mentorship, corporate partner, and volunteer essay review opportunities for folks who want to get involved. WSOS’ mentorship program engages industry partners to guide and enhance Scholars’ career readiness skills, ensuring a smooth transition from college to career. Our Corporate Partners share internship and job opportunities to help Scholars gain valuable professional experience and kickstart their careers. This looks like company-hosted lunch and learn sessions, industry-specific career panels, office site tours, or essay review events to engage with Scholars and contribute to their success. To learn more, visit

Reach out if you’d like to recommend a startup, founder, angel, accelerator, or New Tech alumni presenter for us to spotlight for the PNW tech community!


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