Long Reach program teaches 11th-graders how to handle interview


May 04, 1999|By John J. Snyder | John J. Snyder,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PREPARING A RESUME for an interview is nerve-racking, even for seasoned veterans. Imagine being an 11th-grader attempting to make a good impression on a perfect stranger in 20 minutes or less.

Third-year students at Long Reach High School had a chance recently to practice for college or job interviews. The Junior Interview Program sets up mock interviews -- a state requirement -- for students in the fall and spring.

The interviewers were volunteers: employers and other leaders, drawn from the business community, local churches, community associations and the military. They signed on to the program to help young men and women get a firsthand look at the interviewing process.

The juniors selected the kind of company they might be interested in or the college they would like to attend. The interviewer played the role of the organization's representative.

The kids were eager to show their best side.

Each junior presented a resume produced in English class. After carefully inspecting the paperwork for neatness and completion, the interviewers asked a series of questions.

The kids come prepared for the standard queries about long-term career goals, favorite school subjects and expectations.

But interviewers were encouraged to ask applicants the kinds of unexpected questions that an experienced employer or administrator might ask.

Questions such as "Where do you see yourself in 20 years?" and "How far would like to go in your chosen field?" sometimes elicited conflicting answers.

At the end of each session, the applicant waited as the interviewer filled out a checklist to evaluate the candidate's success. Appropriate dress, legibility and completeness of the resume, and seriousness of the applicant were among the criteria.

The students received evaluations from friendly but serious interviewers, and a few tips on the do's and don'ts for interviews.

"The kids were prepared," said interviewer Linda McEwan, a United Airlines flight-attendant trainer. "They were definitely focused and conscientious. Even the kids who didn't do well were really pleasant."

"It was a new experience," said junior Hugh Robinson, who likes math and hopes to attend the Air Force Academy. "I thought it would be a lot harder. I learned how to answer questions better, how to flesh them out."

Long Reach High School compensated interviewers for their time by providing a selection of box lunches, usually from Heavenly Ham in Dorsey's Search.

Gathered around a table in a conference room, the adults, between bites, said how happy they were to have the opportunity to speak with young people.

"The kids have a lot of vision and hope for a good career," said Johnny Tillery, an engineering technician for the Montgomery County Department of Parks and Planning.

Interviewer Donna M. Richardson, production manager for Comcast Cablevision, said, "It's nice for them to have the opportunity to do this instead of going for a job without the preparation."

Guidance counselor Donna Cook has organized the program at Long Reach for the past three years.

"The kids are a little intimidated at first," Cook said. "But they relax once they see the interviewers won't be hypercritical."

Henry Dagenais, chairman of the Long Reach board of directors and a retired Army colonel, offered his perspective after participating in two of the three mornings of interviews.

"The impression we get from the public is that kids today are a bunch of hoods," Dagenais said. "But these are good kids doing the right thing, not the kind who get into the news. I'm pretty amazed at how squared away a lot of these young men and women are."

Cheers for the coach

Congratulations to Robin Page, cheerleading coach at Oakland Mills High School, for her selection as a finalist for the 1999 National Cheerleading Coach of the Year award by Cheer Ltd., one of the top cheerleading companies in America.

Cheers Ltd. organizes and promotes cheerleading competitions.

Page, nominated by American Cheerleading Magazine, will compete for the title against 14 candidates at the 1999 National Cheerleading Coaches Conference May 20-23 at Methodist College in Fayetteville, N.C.

A sign-language interpreter for the Howard County school system, she is based at Manor Woods Elementary School in Ellicott City.

Page coached the Pop Warner Howard County Trojans youth cheerleading organization from 1991 until last year.

The Trojans are an elementary school-age football team in the Pop Warner League.

Her leadership has helped many Howard County graduates earn spots on high-powered sports teams at the University of Maryland and with the Baltimore Ravens.

On Saturday, you can congratulate Page and support a good cause.

Oakland Mills cheerleaders will hold a fund-raiser carwash from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Columbia Mobil station, Cradlerock Way and Broken Land Parkway.

Station manager Adam Kummerer, a 1990 Oakland Mills graduate, said he is looking forward to helping out his alma mater.

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