Chicagoland

Teaching students how to prepare for the future

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
January 10, 2018

Teaching students how to prepare for the future

Eighth-graders at Queen of the Universe School receive the usual curriculum of math, language arts and religion. But this year, they are getting something more: help preparing for high school and beyond.
Diego Fernandez listens as students at Queen of the Universe School, 7130 S. Hamlin Ave., practice being interviewed with motivational speaker Jan Irwin Dec. 14. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Eighth-graders at Queen of the Universe School, 7130 S. Hamlin Ave., practice being interviewed by a panel with motivational speaker Jan Irwin on Dec. 14. The program addressed how to speak to an adult, manners, dress, and skills the students will need when they enter high school and college. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A student makes a point as eighth-graders at Queen of the Universe School, 7130 S. Hamlin Ave., practice being interviewed by a panel with motivational speaker Jan Irwin on Dec. 14. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Eighth-graders at Queen of the Universe School receive the usual curriculum of math, language arts and religion.

But this year, they are getting something more: help preparing for high school and beyond.

Motivational speaker Jan Irwin has been working with the students to help them learn to prioritize, manage their time, present themselves as candidates for scholarships and internships and to be comfortable in social situations with adults.

Principal Mary Porod said 100 percent of the students at the school, in Chicago’s West Lawn neighborhood, receive free breakfast and lunch, and she is working hard to build the enrollment with the help of the Big Shoulders Fund, the archdiocesan Caritas scholarship program and other organizations that offer financial assistance.

But no matter how well the students do at Queen of the Universe, they must be prepared to move on, Porod said. Many of them will need scholarship assistance to attend the high schools of their choice, she said.

“They need to know how to be successful,” she said. “We’ve got a good program, and people want our students, but they need to know how to market themselves. Life is not just what is going on right now.”

To help prepare, the eighth-graders spent a day in December with Irwin. Dressed in business-casual clothes, the students broke into pairs for a time to practice interviewing and being interviewed, with the partner asking the questions also holding up a hand mirror so the other students could see their posture and facial expressions while they answered.

Janel Anaya said the program was helpful because it gave her experience answering the kinds of questions interviewers ask.

“I won’t be as nervous because I’ve done it before,” Janel said.

“You don’t have to be scared of being yourself,” classmate Emily Ocampo said. “Share your smile.”

“I know what it takes to prepare,” said Christopher Castro. “To be confident, trust myself and not stutter.”

After the partner exercise, the students took turns acting as an interviewing committee and a scholarship or internship applicant, with Irwin coaching them to answer the question in complete sentences, to extend their answer if they could to contribute more favorable information, and to keep from volunteering information that might be seen as negative.

“Don’t give them a reason to not select you,” she told them.

Irwin has brought her program to dozens of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago, as well as to many public schools. She said that when she goes to elementary schools to prepare students for high school, she wants the students to understand how fast those four years will go.

“You want to make the most of them,” she said. “You want to build the all-around balanced transcript, and build as much confidence as possible.” 

Topics:

  • catholic schools

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