A slew of nervous Grade 12 students in formal wear lined up in the gym at Parkland Secondary, mentally preparing for their ‘interviews’ with prominent members of the Saanich Peninsula community.
Part of the students’ graduation requirements, mayors, council members, fire chiefs, lawyers, retired teachers, all waited to ask the high schoolers to lay out their post-secondary plans in detail. It’s a way for the kids to get introduced to the often awkward scenario of interviews out in the real world, said Parkland vice-principal Aaron Buckham.
“It puts them in a place of a little bit of uncomfortableness. They have to rely on personal skill. They have to sell themselves,” he said, adding “dressing up once in a while doesn’t hurt either.”
The students outline their financial plans for their next year, strategies for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and any further education goals.
It’s something most high schools do on the Peninsula, but this is the first year that Parkland has invited the community in to ask the questions.
“We try to get a variety of professions, and to match the students up as well,” said principal Lizanne Chicanot.
If a student is particularly interested in construction, for example, the school would try to pair them up with someone in the field, explained Chicanot.
For Sebastian Slack, the whole process was rather intimidating at first.
“When you first walk in and see all those straight faces, it’s extremely nerve wracking, and you think ‘what am I getting myself into?’”
“But then they’re all faces you recognize. It took me about five minutes before I got comfortable and could actually start enjoying myself.”
The faces he met at his table certainly helped put the Grade 12 at ease; waiting for Slack were three-time Olympic rower Buffy Williams and former Parkland career counsellor Roger Pires.
“I don’t think I could have gotten two better interviewers,” said Slack, who also rows and added that Pires was his Grade 9 basketball coach as well.
Pires, who just retired last year after 30 years on the job, has always had a way of connecting with his students, said Buckham.
“Kids are just drawn to him. He says something, and they listen. To have him do this is such a beauty. He’s one of the pillars of Parkland.”
And at the end of it all, was it helpful? Absolutely, said Slack with a grin.
“This was the first time I’ve had a serious, sit-down, suit and tie interview, and now I feel prepared to meet anything in the workforce.”