On an early school-day morning, students in Kim Kawaratani’s college readiness class at Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Charter High School (ODLHA) wore freshly-pressed business attire and held neatly printed resumes as they patiently waited for class to start. These students weren’t preparing for just any class assignment, they were preparing for interviews.
For the last 15 years, Kawaratani has held mock interviews at ODLHA. She has coordinated with several industry professionals to interview students for aspirational jobs and opportunities, which she believes will support students for future career readiness. “I tell them a big part of this class is learning how to present the best part of yourself in person and on paper,” Kawaratani said. Through in-class assignments, students develop self-awareness and adapt learning styles that work for them, she added.
For the first component of this project students selected a job or opportunity—youth coordinator, medical office assistant, sales person, a business internship, or a college scholarship—that they could apply for. “It’s not everyday I go around writing down my greatest strengths,” said Amanda Diaz, an 11th grade student at ODLHA. “I really had to assess myself as a person on what I’m good at, and what I really can do.” Stakes were high and even thrilling for other students. “It’s going to prepare me for the real interview when I choose to apply for a job, which can help me secure my future,” said Jesus Toral, an 11th grade student at ODLHA.
Each volunteer took time out of their regular workday to impart knowledge and advice onto these high school students. Interviewers graded Kawaratani’s students on their delivery, enthusiasm, preparedness, resume, attire, and handshake. The students also received personal feedback on their performance, gearing them up for future interviews.
Ryan Lee, director of Terasaki Budokan, a local sports and activities nonprofit, was impressed by the performance of the ODLHA students. “They prepared so much. I encouraged them to be confident in who they are, and things they believe in, and let that shine in their interview,” he said. “It’s great to see that Green Dot’s schools are really investing in not just high school education but post-secondary goals. It’s nice to see they’re looking at the holistic student.”
While Kawaratani designed this project to help students prepare for the future, it also reminded the volunteers of their own career paths . “I remember my first job interviews and how nervous I felt,” said Jonathan Schreter, Executive Vice President, Bolton & Company and a Green Dot ambassador. “To know that I could give [each of] these kids 15 minutes of practice time to hear and experience what it might be like to go after their first job was a no-brainer for me to support.” Schreter saw how each student demonstrated passion about their futures, and “how they knew these jobs, even though not real, were the next level for them.”
Green Dot’s college readiness courses support our schools’ college-going cultures through promoting college accessibility and supplying students with the tools to navigate college and future careers. Each student is 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 their confidence and teach them personal responsibility. It’s also why Green Dot educators like Kawaratani have an unwavering belief in all students.