Dallastown students prepare for the future
Despite the fact that it was Dallastown Area High School's last full day of classes, sophomores were dressed to the nines and working hard on their interview skills with local community members.
Monday was the school's annual Interview Day, one of many steps in preparing the Dallastown students for future professional careers. Jud Stauffer, the school-to-work coordinator for Dallastown Area School District, was one of the coordinators of the event.
Stauffer said Dallastown begins career development with students in kindergarten. Alumni surveyed have said that the sophomore Interview Day is one of the best career-development opportunities they experienced as students.
"Not everyone's going to go to higher education, and that's fine, but they need to be prepared," said Elliott Gottloeb, a mathematics teacher helping with the event.
Preparation: The sophomore class spends much of the school year preparing for the interview. They begin by writing a research-style paper, called an I-Search paper, on a profession that interests them. While writing the paper, many students will spend time interviewing, shadowing or even interning for a local professional in the field that interests them. This is so they have a better understanding of what career paths interest them before graduation, according to Stauffer.
The English teachers spend time during class coaching them through career development as well, according to Stauffer. Students learn about resumes, cover letters, how to properly shake hands and how to dress for an interview.
The school day before Interview Day, local human resources representatives come to the sophomore classrooms and teach them about what it's like to be interviewed — not just for a part-time job but for a "family-sustaining-wage job interview," Stauffer explained.
Preparation for each Interview Day begins immediately after the current Interview Day ends. With more than 90 volunteers each year and very large classes to accommodate, Interview Day requires a lot of work to ensure it will run smoothly and be a teaching moment for the students.
"This speaks to our community support," Stauffer said. "This is a true community and education partnership."
Interview Day: Each student is interviewed by a volunteer for approximately 20 minutes, though Stauffer stressed that the interviews can take as long as they would like to ensure that the students are taking their time and learning from the experience. The idea is to get all 488 students through the process between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Interview Day so they can continue on to their other classes.
Although the interviews are done with specific local businesses, the topics are general. The students begin by filling out a general job application to gain practice with that aspect of the job search process. Interviewers are provided with the application as well as the students' resumes, and they ask general questions based on that information.
Some of the questions are: "What have you done in school," "What careers are you interested in" and "How do you think you did on this interview?"
Throughout the interview, those interviewing the students will provide feedback.
George W.W. Jones Jr., former principal at Dallastown Area High School, spent time interviewing student Dixie Robertson.
"Being interviewed is a difficult thing, and it takes a lot of practice," Jones told Dixie in her interview. "I want this to be a really good experience for you. I think you did really well."
At the end of each interview, the students have time to ask questions or get feedback from the professional. Each student also receives feedback on a sheet, which is later electronically scanned and discussed at an assembly. Statistics from the feedback sheets are shown to the students with areas in which they did well or need to improve on as a class.
"I learned a lot," Dixie said of her practice interview. "I like how (Jones) made it a comfortable environment. He was more open than some other people might have been."
Students take a survey after the interview is completed as a chance to reflect on their performance that day. These survey results also are shown at the assembly.
After that, students spend time uploading their resume and feedback into their electronic cumulative portfolio, which spans their entire high school career and houses the work they do to further their professional development, according to Tad Gould, an anatomy and physiology teacher who is behind many of the logistics of the day.
"Colleges and employment agencies want to know more than just someone's name and their resume," Gould said. "This is a four-year collection of education opportunities."
The volunteers: Ninety-four individuals from local businesses or members of the community volunteer to help interview the sophomores each year. Stauffer and Jones said many of these volunteers are former students themselves.
"In this room, there are several of my former students, and that's particularly satisfying to see them come back and make a contribution like this," Jones said. He went on to say that Monday marked his 25th Interview Day at Dallastown. "I think it's important the school continues to prepare students for the job market."
Nearly every industry is represented at Interview Day, and Superintendent Ronald Dyer said some students are even hired for internships or part-time jobs after the interviews. School board members, U.S. marshals, people from the Department of Education and human resources managers are just a few of those who volunteer.
Interview Day is a great way for community members to become mentors to students as well as meet and mingle with other local businesses, according to Vaughn Silar, president and owner of Pargon Engineering Services.
"I've participated for five or 10 years," Silar said. "I like to give back and also check out the future talent. Some of the kids are quite impressive at 10th grade. It renews my faith in the world."
Professionals aren't the only volunteers seen at Interview Day. The school's juniors, having participated in their own Interview Day the year before, help escort the kids to rooms for interviews and calm the nerves of students while walking with them. Many look back fondly on their own Interview Day.
"I interviewed with a Chik-fil-A owner, and he told me to have confidence and make eye contact," Dallastown junior Skyler Wilt said. "I actually got an interview with Chik-fil-A out of it, so I definitely remember it."
Though the day is nerve-wracking for many students, most leave their interviews feeling as though they've learned something and are better prepared.
"I was nervous, but when I sat down it was easy," said Rachel Petree, a Dallastown sophomore. "It was a good experience, and I learned how to be more prepared."