CARLSBAD — It is the first step for many into a brave new world.
Juniors at Carlsbad High School participated in the school’s annual mock interviews program, which gives students a taste of the professional realm.
The program, which is voluntary, requires CHS students to work either 90 or 180 hours in an internship, in which they earn five elective credits and must complete for graduation.
Lisa Papera, the academy internship coordinator, said the program began in the 1997-98 school year and has grown ever since. This year, about 163 students, or 30 percent, of the junior class enrolled.
Before the sessions, however, the students enter into a short program detailing what is expected by the time of the interviews. Each April, the students sit down for about 10 minutes with various members of the community such as business leaders, school district officials, city officials and others (the author of this story participated as an interviewer Monday, although those students were not on the record for this story).
But it’s not a typical interview for the students as they receive feedback either during or after their session.
For many, though, it is a nerve-racking experience, but also serves as an opportunity to learn and digest from individuals with experience in various industries.
“I was just trying to keep a positive mindset going in,” said 17-year-old junior Brenden Chavez. “I was nervous a little bit, but I just didn’t want to admit it to myself. As the questions start flying by, it’s not as tense. It’s still kind of intimidating because this person is a professional.”
His internship will focus on accounting or some aspect of finance, while 16-year-old Hanna Lucas has her sights set on dermatology.
Lucas, who interviewed with Carlsbad City Councilman Michael Schumacher, echoed Chavez’s thoughts. She came in prepared, but once seated across from Schumacher, Lucas said she became nervous.
“I feel it is easier to talk to my peers than my elders because they know more than I do,” she added. “He said to me that he was proud that I asked a question because none of the other people had done that. I did my research on dermatologists.”
Chavez said one key is to highlight his strengths and tie in any work experience, although it is tough for teenagers who have no or limited time in their desired field.
As for weaknesses, both Chavez and Lucas said it is important to turn those negatives into positives.
“Make it a strength,” she said.
“Turn it around on them is what you should do,” he added.
The students and interviewers, meanwhile, are given a sheet of commonly asked questions, but the current professionals may go off course to challenge the students.
After the interviews, the students must search out their internships using their network of friends and family or just applying to specific businesses or industries of their interest.
They must keep a running journal of their work and during their senior year, work on a project and give presentations to classmates and teachers about their experiences.
“The bulk of the work they do is in their senior year,” Papera said. “For many of them, it’s the first time they have the opportunity to interview. It’s the first step of the process of developing as professionals.”
And while many students may like their internships and the paths offered through those careers, those who do not are just as important and recognized. The reason is now the students will not venture down a road into a profession they won’t enjoy.
“It is considered a success in some sense when kids say no because that gives them a clearer sense of possibilities for their education and they already making adjustments,” Papera said. “It really reflects highly on them because this is an opportunity to present themselves to universities with a more well-rounded background.”
Two of Carlsbad’s prominent residents and professionals — Carlton and Sundy Lund — have been with the program since its beginnings.
And as it unfolded, Carlton Lund interviewed Jeff Pashby, who then came to Lund to apply for an internship with Lund’s real estate firm.
Eighteen years later, Pashby is now a senior associate for the Lund Team and worked for two years as an intern plus working with Lund through college while at the University of California, Irvine.
“He came to me and interviewed,” Lund said. “He had a regression analysis on Carlsbad.”
“I applied my studies in AP statistics to arrange pricing at the time,” Pashby recalled. “I was hired on the spot probably because I offered to work for free.”
Lund and his wife return each year to lend their support to the students and he said is never surprised by the intelligence and kindness of those teens. Lund, like many, is assigned students with a wide range of interests and the drive to succeed.
For Pashby, though, the program has a lasting impression. He developed a scholarship for college-bound CHS seniors involved in the academy program.
It started about 10 years ago and he selects one student, although there have been occasions where two are chosen.
“It’s an opportunity to give back,” Pashby said. “I was looking to do something to give back, discretely.”