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Building career skills, block by block

Austin VanDyk wants to open his own skate shop one day. Madelyn Mousseau envisions applying makeup for actors and performers.

Both Northern High sophomores know their goals are going to take serious planning. They are learning it’s important to identify and tout the character traits that make them good job candidates.

Sophomore Madelyn Mousseau presented her research on a career in makeup artistry

For Austin, that means dependability, attention to detail and cooperation; and for Maddie, creativity, niceness, and her experience “messing with makeup at home.”

Austin and Maddie, as well as classmate George W., shared presentations on research they had done on their intended careers.

Afterward, they joined juniors T.J. Henderson, Leah Toering and Brianna Woods in a game of interview skills Jenga, where the goal was to get them thinking seriously about how to prepare for and conduct themselves during job interviews.

Questions hand-written on the playing pieces, which students drew and answered, included:

One thing to do before a job interview? Austin had two good ones: “Shower, and go over what you’re going to say.”

What should you do when you disagree with your boss? “Talk to them and try to solve it,” Leah said.

Your biggest weakness? “Paying attention,” T.J. said. “It’s something I’m working on.”

The session was part of a multi-week partnership with Ability Employment Services. Co-founders Anthony Centille and Scott Snowling lead eight sessions during the school year, which also include career exploration, presentation skills practice and workplace readiness.

Northern High teacher Kara Scranton said this is the second year the school is partnering with the company. The sessions are funded by Michigan Rehabilitation Services.

“This helps them start to focus, and it backs up what they do as part of career exploration,” Scranton said.

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


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  1. I have to agree, Emily. It seems to be a really nice partnership that is honing good, real-world skills. Plus it drives home teamwork and cooperation, researching, public speaking/presentation and thinking about the future. Stuff we all benefit from!


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