Nearly 40 students from Hartford Public High School spent their spring break preparing for future success. The 38 students dragged themselves out of bed every morning from April 8-12 to participate in the YES Academy.
YES stands for Youth Employability Skills, and for one week, students learned from professionals what to expect, and how to act and dress in the business world.
From résumé writing to interview skills, the students received practical advice from people who’ve been there. CBIA’s Education & Workforce Partnership began the YES Academy 15 years ago to provide students with the skills that help them to land and keep a job.
Skills, Attitude, Behavior
The problem, said partnership program manager Dayl Walker, is that many high school students don’t know how to act in the business world. “This helps them understand what employers expect in terms of skills, attitudes, and behaviors,” she said. Volunteers from Connecticut companies taught more than 20 workshops, preparing students for internships and other work-based learning opportunities that enhance the skills they need to be college and career ready.
Attorney Moy Ogilvie, managing partner of McCarter & English, spoke to the students about dressing as a professional—including on a jeans day. “As a black woman, I walk a fine line because if I were to dress my normal jeans day, I would not look like a lawyer or a professional, so I have a balance,” Ogilvie said.
“I wear jeans but I wear a nicer blouse with it so people still take me seriously in my role. You just have to use your judgment.
“They’ll give you guidelines on how to dress, but at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, ‘Do I look professional?'”
On the academy’s second day, students participated in an exercise—building a paper tower—that stresses the importance of teamwork. Students gathered in teams of three and four, then used recycled 8-by-11-inch sheets of white paper to build a tower. The exercise demonstrates the importance of working together and shows that communication also involves listening. Students bent and folded the paper in ways that allowed them to stack them—some all the way to the ceiling.‘Afterward, students spoke about what they learned. “Communication is the key,” said Damari Mitchell. “You need teamwork and to listen to each other. “And we didn’t give up. That’s the most important thing.”
“We all worked together,” said Mirandy Tavares, member of a team whose tower reached the ceiling. “No one thought they were the leader. No one put blame on anyone when it didn’t go right. We only focused on getting the job done.”
CBIA president and CEO Joe Brennan told the students the lessons they learned from the paper tower challenge—teamwork, communication, cooperation, persistence can serve them throughout life. “The attributes you learned in this exercise are going to help you in any kind of job you go into,” Brennan said. “It will help you if you go to college, junior college or graduate school. The skills you learned today are applicable no matter what you do.”