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Exit interviews...

Published April 19, 2007

[Times photo: Maurice Rivenbark]
Seniors Scott Crespo, left, and Troy Davis, both 17, wait in a hallway at Hernando High School in Brooksville as they make last minute preparations for their senior exit interviews.

High school seniors in Hernando County can reap the benefits of a number of programs that ready them for the workplace or college.

At Hernando High School, one of those programs involves putting graduating seniors through exit interviews.

The guidance staff and community business volunteers come together each year in the school's Leopard Room, named for the school mascot, to interview the students.

Student preparation begins as early as the 10th grade, when many students fill out employment applications for the first time.

Students are told that going into a fast-food joint, wearing T-shirts and sandals and scribbling stuff on a one-sheet application, isn't much like what happens in many real-world situations.

"They need to prepare and plan," according to Chris Kostis, Hernando guidance counselor.

Realtor Jack Gavish, tax collector administrator Sally Daniel, retired culinary teacher Sue Oxendorf and media specialist Jan Mazourek gave up a recent morning to interview marketing and business students.

They consider appearance and preparedness first.

"We do that with real prospective employees," Daniel said. "All employers want appropriate appearance."

Students have worked on the components of their presentation packages in various classes through high school.

They assemble resumes, autobiographies, career goal essays and a portfolio of accomplishments of which they're proud, principal Betty Harper said.

Interviewers comment on strengths - and on what needs tweaking. Interviewees are told to treat it like a job interview.

Scott Crespo, 18, stepped up to the interviewers, extended his hand for a firm shake and passed out resumes. With direct eye contact, he announced his plan to attend a college where there are no slackers.

"Okay, have at it," he told the interviewers.

Cassondra Arno, 17, arrived on time, dressed for business and wearing conservative makeup and jewelry.

"I want to be a criminal psychologist - get inside the minds of people who have gone the wrong way," she said. "But I'll start out at community college. I know I need to build my maturity before I'm ready to just leave my mom and home."

Dominique Courbin, 18, aspiring attorney, was asked about his low grade-point average. Courbin replied candidly that he didn't realize the value of school until 10th grade.

"How would you encourage schools to get that point across earlier?" Gavish asked him.

Courbin replied: "Give students real facts and clear illustrations. I got it when I saw a chart of how a low grade average early on can impact your final rank."

The interviews aren't just for business students. Health care students and those on vocational tracks, artists and musicians, engineers and agriculture kids put as much effort into their presentations.

Mazourek said a 2005 graduate, Lee Pedone, came in full cowboy regalia for his interview and spoke of his aspiration to be a rodeo star.

"He made it," Harper said. "I have a photo of him in my office."

Four years ago, Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nikolai interviewed senior George Welsted.

"Karen was so impressed with his PowerPoint presentation," Mazourek said, "she ended up hiring him. He's still there."

Interviewer volunteers have told guidance counselor Kostis they wish they had had such practice before venturing into the real world.

"We want everyone to be as prepared as they can be," Kostis said. "After some kids leave us, they come back asking for a little more help in these skills. That's fine, too. Once a Leopard, always a Leopard."

[Last modified April 19, 2007, 07:54:39]

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