It’s not too often you find high school students interviewing with industry professionals from organizations like The Los Angeles Rams, Netflix, Hensel Phelps, Snapchat, FedEx, Lionsgate Entertainment, and Dell. For 16 years, this annual event has helped Green Dot students build comfort with the interview process and receive real-world practice translating their experiences into marketable skills with professional volunteers. This year Green Dot students had the opportunity to hone their interview skills virtually and receive helpful feedback during mock interviews.
Despite Covid-19 shifting the event online, over 250 students across our Los Angeles schools had an opportunity to experience a job interview in a safe and constructive environment while being exposed to new industries and career opportunities. “We pivoted to a virtual format this year, allowing professionals from across the country to give students the benefits of their experience and expertise,” says Douglas Weston, VP of Development at Green Dot. “Some of the most senior executives in the nation and a wide variety of employees from our best American companies joined our Board members and Ambassadors in an incredible show of support for young people and their dreams.”
Kim Kawaratani, Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Charter High School’s college readiness teacher, has used this opportunity to teach students how to prepare for interviews, a necessary skill to stand out in internships, college, and career opportunities. Kawaratani works with students to help them understand how to position their experiences into advantages for future employment.
Reimagining a Virtual Event
After a 15-year streak, Kawaratani spent months reimagining how her college readiness students could participate in the 16th annual mock interviews. She immediately began working with her students to help them feel confident in virtual interviews. “We started off by just having our students go into breakout rooms and talk about fun things, having a conversation with each other with cameras on.”
Soon, Kawaratani introduced opportunities for students to pick mock positions, learn useful strategies for interviews, and incorporate their current experiences into their interview trials. “We just started practicing. And I made it so students had access to the questions they would be asked, so they could practice with each other,” Karawatani said. “Someone was the interviewer and someone was the interviewee and they had to interview in small breakout rooms.”
Interviews in Action
“The Los Angeles Rams are proud to partner with an organization such as Green Dot Public Schools who is doing critical work to help transform public education for all students,” said Molly Higgins, Rams Vice President of Community Affairs and Engagement. “Our organization has an ongoing commitment to mentor deserving students in the greater LA Community and we hope that the mock interviews and simulated job experience provided them with skills, knowledge, confidence and encouragement.”
Over 100 professional volunteers from major organizations spent three hours interviewing over 250 students from Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo and Ánimo Leadership Charter High Schools. Evelyn Bonilla, an 11th-grade student in Kawaratani’s college readiness class, said she felt motivated by the experience. “I felt really comfortable, because my interviewers were really welcoming, and I felt comfortable talking to them,” Bonilla said. “I talked about what I have done for the youth ministry at my church, and my past with youth groups, and the Boys and Girls Club, and how that helped me build myself,” she added.
Bonilla is looking forward to implementing the feedback she received and using her refined interview and presentation skills to apply for a job this summer. “I learned that with some practice, it’s easy to prepare for interviews. Ms. Kawaratani gave us an idea on what to say, and it really guided us in the right direction,’ Bonilla said.
Looking back at the event Kawaratani was appreciative of Green Dot’s assistance in coordinating interviewers and staffing volunteers to supervise the individual breakout rooms. “ I think the interviewers were pretty pleased with how it went and the students really enjoyed it. Many of my students felt like they learned something useful, and it really opened their eyes. They're always shocked at how nice the interviewers can be,” Kawaratani said. I feel like it was a very positive experience for my students.”
At Green Dot, we use our college readiness courses to support our schools’ college-going cultures. In these classes, our students are mentored as they build their college lists, prepare for the SAT, complete college and financial aid applications, start personal statement letters, review admission offers, and assist students through the transitional phase between high school and college. Assignments such as mock interviews help students build confidence, and prepare for success in college, leadership, and life.