Portfolio Day draws business leaders to Scarlett, offers students career tips

A2Y Chamber honors longtime Scarlett program

By Casey Hans
AAPSNews Service

Scarlett Middle School eighth-graders got a taste of multiple career choices during the school’s annual Portfolio Day this month, which teams students with local professionals who share their expertise about the working world.

Scarlett Portfolio Day
Students meet with business professionals during Scarlett Portfolio Day. They participated in 10- to 12-minute interviews, designed to help them with poise and confidence.

To prepare for the day, students prepared personal portfolios so they could experience the 10- to 12-minute interviews with the visiting professionals, who offered their own experiences plus feedback to the students.

Whitney Tarver is an administrative intern with the University of Michigan Athletic Department and was one of the professional interviewers. She spoke with five students and said, “it’s just exciting to talk to them and hear them talk about their future.”

Scarlett Portfolio Day
Devon Adjei of the African Studies Center at the University of Michigan meets with a Scarlett student during Portfolio Day.

Tarver said she was surprised to see how things have changed since she was in school. “I learned that the curriculum has changed a lot,” she said. “They’re really helping students apply what they’re learning to what they want to do in the future.”

She also gave her students some advice: “To stay in school and get good grades. The other thing I told them was to be open to change – and always willing to be open to new things,” she said.

A total of 76 Ann Arbor area professionals took part in this year’s Scarlett Portfolio Day. New this year was a student-business mixer at the conclusion of the interview sessions.

Scarlett lead Language Arts teacher Ellen Daniel works with students to build their portfolios and confidence leading up to the day. Students create cover letters, resumes and portfolios of their accomplishments, research areas of interest in careers, rehearse interview questions and learn interview skills including business dress, posture, making eye contact and developing a firm, confident handshake.

The day “makes a clear connection between what they do in real life and how school relates to that,” Daniel said. “It exposes students to all kinds of possibilities of what they can do and gives them exposure to other careers they might not even consider.”

Daniel told the visiting professionals that this is the first time most students would be doing a cold interview and meeting with a professional. “I’m trying to prepare them for a future none of us can see,” she told the group. “Jobs that didn’t exist five years ago are hot now.”

Scarlett Portfolio Day
Derrick Padgett of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, meets with students for one-on-one interviews.

Annette Ferguson, the district’s business partnerships coordinator, who worked with Daniel to coordinate business participation in the day, said it can be a turning point for students. “These students are moving into high school next year and Portfolio Day encourages them to think about their careers, academic choices and connections to the community,” she said. “This event is not designed to make students know what they want to be, but to help them think about what they can be.”

Ferguson said participating businesses this year include scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers, medical professionals and law enforcement representatives, among others. Organizers looked not only for interesting and challenging professions, but also for those who use new and advancing technologies.

Tiffany Lin works with Google as an account manager. She said she looked forward to meeting with students. “It’s definitely important to learn new skills early on,” she said.

Certified athletic trainer Melissa Pohorence works at U-M. She said Portfolio Day gives students confidence in themselves. “They can learn how to conduct themselves in a setting like this,” she said. “They’re getting a great start.”

Elizabeth LaPorte directs communication and education outreach to schools for the Michigan Sea Grant through U-M. This was her first time at Portfolio Day, and said she was pleased to share her career calling with students.

“This will be exciting for me too,” she said before the interviews began. “I’m expecting to get energized from the students. Even if they may not choose science as a primary career, there are a lot of related things they can do. There’s so much variety in almost every area.”

Portfolio Day receives kudos from the A2Y Chamber

Scarlett Middle School Portfolio Day received an Exemplary Educational Endeavors Award this month from the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce for its Portfolio Day project. Scarlett language arts teacher Ellen Daniel and retired counselor Nancy Schleicher, who founded the program, were both nominated an honored.

Called the E3 award, it was presented at the A2Y Early Edition breakfast on May 18, the same day that Portfolio Day took place in the afternoon.

Scarlett received a trophy and a $200 award for the program that has touched more than 3,000 eighth-graders over 17 years. Programs in Ypsilanti, Lincoln Consolidated and Willow Run school districts were also honored by the chamber.

Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation Executive Director Wendy Correll nominated the Portfolio Day project for the award.

“For most students, this will be their only opportunity for a ‘mock’ interview before they truly are interviewing for jobs and applying to college,” said Correll, who also serves as a Portfolio Day interviewer. “The program that Mrs. Schleicher designed has exceeded expectations and lives on today, nearly two decades after its inception.”

Mary Moffett, community relations director for The Neutral Zone, has been involved with Portfolio Day since its start. “Even after all of these years, I continue to be impressed by the students I interview and how they present themselves,” she said in her letter supporting the nomination. “The Portfolio Day program at Scarlett is the perfect example of a partnership between schools and business and of business professionals supporting youth in the development of real-world, life skills.”

Click here to see a list of Ann Arbor area professionals who participated in 2011 Scarlett Portfolio Day.

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