Capitol Hill High School student Jennifer Cardenas says she is shy. So just having a conversation with any stranger is a challenge.
But she got some good practice at making eye contact and listening carefully to an adult she doesn’t normally talk to Wednesday.
She was one of a group of students who got to rehearse their skills at being interviewed for a job by adult community volunteers who normally conduct interviews for real-world jobs.
The practice rounds are organized by Erika Reyes, site coordinator and dance director of the Academy in the south side neighborhood high school. The school is a part of Oklahoma City Public Schools.
The program not only teaches performance arts but real-world skills at making a good presentation anywhere the students go.
“A lot of our kids have never had to speak about themselves,” said Reyes. “They’ve never had to talk about their weaknesses or strengths in front of people.”
She said the sophomores and juniors participating today have “many talents” but have not had to talk about themselves.
They don’t know how to present themselves in the best light during an interview.
“They’ve never had to talk about their weaknesses or strengths in front of people.”
She briefed the volunteers before the students came in.
“These students are very talented,” Reyes said. “They are a dance major, a writer or a visual artist, so be sure to ask them to talk about that.”
Volunteers were asked to have students explain their strengths and weaknesses.
We tracked three students as they went through the mock interviews.
Adult Reyna Font has been the community outreach coordinator for Santa Fe South charter schools on the south side for ten years. She is also a graduate of Capitol Hill High School and so has a special heart for students there.
She drew Jennifer Cardenas who seemed tentative at first, but then, began to smile more as the interview progressed.
After the interview, Cardenas said that she found it hard to speak to someone she didn’t know, and so the mock interview was good practice.
“I learned that I need to watch how I start and end my sentences.”
She said the hardest part was “having confidence and telling her things I wouldn’t tell anyone else,” and added that she thought Font was “really nice.”
Another student we watched was Soledad Zambrano as she progressed through her mock interview with adult Kristen Albertson.
Albertson has been in the Army Reserves as she worked for nine and one-half years in medical billing and before that for 11 years as a 911 operator.
Zambrano said she was nervous.
“I had a hard time keeping eye contact, but I think it went OK.”
She said in her family she was taught to look down as a sign of respect when an adult in authority was talking to her, so the mock interview was good practice at keeping eye contact.
Miracle Hill valued the practice she had with Jared Young, an English professor at Oklahoma State University.
Hill seemed relaxed throughout her interview.
She seems to know what her challenges are, though.
“Hardest thing was to keep my sentences flowing because I always interrupt myself with ‘um’ and ‘ok.’”
She felt like she did well in eye contact and answering questions, except for one.
“I couldn’t name two weaknesses when he asked. I’ll have to work on that, too.”
“He told me in most interviews they will ask you to talk about your strengths and weaknesses,” said Hill.
The Juniors participating are up for internships this spring semester, so the day was very important for them, said Reyes.
“I think today went well. Students got to have some real practice with adults who weren’t teachers,” Reyes said. “I really appreciate the time and effort the adult volunteers put into this.”