District ROP students compete in LACOE interview contests

DOWNEY -- Ten DUSD Regional Occupational Program (ROP) students, half of them from Downey High and half representing Warren High, Wednesday went head-to-head with other ROP students representing the 21 other school districts in Los Angeles County in the annual L.A. County Office of Education (LACOE) "Student Recognition" competition. A total of 150 students were in the field this year as compared to 119 last year.Held at the LACOE offices at Clark and Imperial Avenues, the yearly contest is meant to assess and reward ROP students' job interview skills in the context of their chosen careers or areas of interest. Selected from a pool of candidates, this year's DUSD student representatives competed in areas ranging from education to computer assisted drafting to business to film/video production and commercial photography. Last year's DUSD students garnered two golds, two silvers, and seven bronze medals (the serious ROP student covets such a medal). This year's winners won't be announced until March 20, but Phil Davis, director of support programs/career and technical education who oversees the ROP program, has high hopes the students will also do well this time, if not better, because of their own individual efforts and intensive coaching from district staff. On Friday, March 6, for example, the students took part in a ritual mock interview at the ROP conference room, where panels of judges consisting of teachers, principals, and school administrators took turns testing the student candidates' mastery of job interview skills according to a performance evaluation format. The questions and conditions anticipated as much as possible the expected actual questions and conditions the students were to face on the actual day of competition. That they were to provide an effective resume after properly filling out a job application, was a given. In the mock interview proper, the open-ended questions asked each interviewee, to encourage quick thinking/test their response and communication skills, were variations of three main themes: 1) "What is your passion?", 2) "What do you regard as your best qualities/traits?", and 3) "Describe what you perceive as your most meaningful ROP experience?" (Five minutes were allotted to this segment in the actual competition Wednesday). The students were then to follow these up with a 'story-board' presentation (another five minutes) of their imagined/preferred career path. A power point presentation was also allowed. (This took another five minutes). It became clear that the mock judges/evaluators, who can only be described as high-powered-a sign of the seriousness of purpose the district has endowed the mock exercise-was looking for a full understanding on the student's part of what a job interview really entailed in the actual world. This meant observing closely such easily-disregarded points as a firm handshake, confidently greeting one's interlocutors, and suitable attire; maintaining eye contact and speaking in a clear and audible voice, keeping the interviewer (s) engaged by using language with precision (avoiding redundancy or filler words); providing ready answers and to-the-point, as well as directly related to the questions asked, while including evidence/examples for a more comprehensive/descriptive rendering of same; articulating native or acquired skills and knowledge in direct relation to a job, and how these came about, and why they are proud of their work, as well as an explication of a purposeful connection to their learning and career goals; and, finally, emphasizing the supreme importance of a natural, winning smile and a closing 'thank you' at the end of the interview. In one instance, after noting one interviewee's weaknesses, Stan Hanstad, asst. superintendent for personnel services, advised the student to slow down one's presentation (speech) especially if it has been memorized, and, in consonance with talking with passion, letting one's personality shine through, etc. Another incisive observation was offered by WHS principal John Harris, when he encouraged one contestant not to forget that one was supposed to be in control of the interview, that he/she should work/sway the interviewer to acceptance of one's 'offer'. To offset one's nervousness, said another 'judge', one only has to take a deep breath before speaking to make a go of it. How well the students performed Wednesday we'll know in about 10 days. Coming out of the actual interview room, Warren High junior Lacy Johnson, for one, said she thought she did well on all counts. A serious second-time ROP enrollee, she competed in the business office category, and is already looking forward to registering for her third ROP (cosmetology) class next year. "I want to pick up as many skills as I can," she said. Ryan Ha, a Warren High commercial photography student under longtime photography teacher George Redfox, made a power point presentation, showcasing his impressive photo slides using his Nikon D80 camera. He said he's eyeing a military photography/photojournalism career. Redfox commended the descendant of Pusan, South Korea ancestors as a "hard-working, disciplined, very serious, enthusiastic" student. The other contestants were, from WHS: seniors Emily Gregorio (film/TV production), Jasmin Medrano (marketing), and Nicolette Kleszynski (graphic arts/animation); and from DHS: junior Lafleche Giasson (education), and seniors Nancy Rodriguez (education), Briaun Tyson (professional dance), Christina Vasquez (pharmacy technician), and Vicente Velasco (computer assisted drafting). Win or lose, the students are sure to learn valuable lessons in many practical areas as they progress from eager, responsible student to productive, achieving adult. ********** Published: March 13, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 47