Investing in Students: Program for ACA Seniors Prepares them for the Future Featured

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill participates in a mock interview with ACA senior Allie Swann on March 22. Swann plans to attend the University of Alabama this fall. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill participates in a mock interview with ACA senior Allie Swann on March 22. Swann plans to attend the University of Alabama this fall. Christine Blakley

Most young adults enter their first interview with uncontrollable nerves, shaking hands, and no idea what to expect. For the seniors of American Christian Academy, that will not be the case. 

With the guidance of their English teachers, ACA seniors have spent all semester working on a comprehensive professional development project that includes researching careers, developing a resume, and practicing their interview skills. 

“After 19 years of working with seniors, I think this project is one of the most realistic assignments they can experience during their last semester of high school,” said Christine Blakley, one of the teachers leading the project. “Many of my former students have stayed in touch with me, and they always say the senior project was not only memorable, but that it was also genuinely beneficial.”

Since 2011, ACA has encouraged their seniors to participate in the project. Hopes are that after graduation, they’ll have all the practical skills they need to confidently enter the next stage of their lives.

“I really needed this experience going into college,” said Hudson Grammer, an ACA senior. “I like being able to better myself, and I know one day this will help me in the future.”

A “who’s who” list of Alabama business and government officials gathered at the school on March 22 to participate in mock interviews that the students spent weeks preparing for. These community leaders acted as a hiring manager at the local Starbucks - interviewing each student for an entry-level position. 

“They are doing a great job to prepare them for the real world, not just the academic world,” said Jeff Smith, an attorney at Rosen Harwood. “I would encourage any other schools to do this.” 

Other notable community leaders who participated in the mock interviews included Secretary of State John Merrill, Northport Mayor Donna Aaron, U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler, and Tuscaloosa City Councilwoman Sonya McKinstry. Overall, 60 volunteers from across Alabama came to ACA to invest in the students. 

“My favorite part was getting to talk to my interviewer after, just be a little more casual and talk about their real life and what they do,” said Caroline Haas, another senior who participated in the mock interviews.

Other aspects of the senior project, such as career research, seek to help students get an in-depth look at the career path they may want to pursue. Students researched things such as job outlooks, benefits, salaries, and education requirements before writing a 10-page paper on the career choice they found most interesting. 

“Through this, we've learned a lot more about the profession we want to pursue,” said Kayleigh Atkins, also a senior at ACA. “You actually learn what it takes to do it, and how.” 

On April 12, the students were able to shadow professionals from the community in their chosen field. For this final piece of the project, students were able to put into practice the knowledge and professionalism they've gained throughout the semester.

“I know a lot of other schools don't do this,” Atkins said. “We are really lucky.” 

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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