Project SEARCH students interview with confidence

Published 3:32 pm Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Allison Wetherbee spoke to Project SEARCH students during an April 23 mock interview workshop. (Reporter Photo / Jon Goering)

Allison Wetherbee spoke to Project SEARCH students during an April 23 mock interview workshop. (Reporter Photo / Jon Goering)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

ALABASTER—Throughout the year, the Arc of Shelby County’s Project SEARCH students have been preparing to enter the workforce. With graduation just around the corner, the students practiced their interview skills in a mock interview workshop with real potential employers.

Both current and next year’s Project SEARCH students participated in the 10th edition of the annual mock interview workshop.

“We had 15 to 20 students when we first started,” said Shelby County Schools job coach Cindy Vinson, “Now we have 40 students here.”

The workshop, held at the Shelby County Instructional Center in Alabaster, was attended by more than 40 employer representatives and government leaders, including Rep. April Weaver and Pelham City Councilman Maurice Mercer.

However, the focus of the day was not on the potential employers, it was on the students, their strengths, preparation and achievements.

The ultimate goal of Project SEARCH is for each student to be employed upon graduation. The staff work with students to provide them the necessary tools to reach this goal, including interview skills, building resumes and giving students confidence.

“It’s about uncovering the strength and building that strength,” Kielbasa said. “There’s nothing they can’t do once the doors are opened for them.”

The students arrived prepared for the April 23 interviews, “dressed for success” with interview schedules and resumes in hand.

The morning opened with a presentation from Allison Wetherbee, the director of community relations at Camp ASCCA. Wetherbee, born without arms or legs, spoke to the students about having confidence and overcoming obstacles.

“With every single job you’re going to get, you have to answer questions about how you’re going to make things work,” Wetherbee said. “Remember whatever issues come up, you can generally work things out.”

After the presentation, the students split up to begin their individual interviews with the employer representatives, some of which could turn into employment opportunities.

After a year of preparation, the students were excited for their interviews and ready to begin life in the workforce, Kielbasa said.

“They are confident and ready,” Kielbasa said. “I tell them opportunities are everywhere and you don’t know where one door might lead you.”