buildOn Students Help Hire their New Program Coordinator

[pullquote]It’s crucial that the students have a voice in this.[/pullquote]

When Joanna Branch, buildOn Program Director in Pennsylvania, needs to hire a new youth service coordinator for her region, she whittles down candidates to who she feels is the best fit and then conducts an interview–with her students.

“It’s crucial that the students have a voice in this,” she says. “For one thing, whoever fills this particular position will act as a ‘chaparone’ on international school building trips. So they’ll have a powerful influence on the students’ experience in those new, foreign environments. The students also ask things that are important but that I wouldn’t necessarily think to.”

Branch designs the interview to give students a taste of what it’s like on the other side of the employment process. Last week, she singled out Aubrey Millert, a stellar applicant for a vacant program coordinator position, and then held a workshop with students from each of the 3 schools that the hired coordinator will be working with. Millert’s resume was passed around, and the youth discussed issues they face in their high schools to question Millert about.

On the day of the interview itself, Branch had Millert develop an icebreaker activity. “She was great,” Branch notes. “She introduced her background in international travel and then had the students share about whether or not they’d ever used the bathroom in a developing country. Then she presented a roll of toilet paper and had everyone pull off how much they’d need to use the restroom. For every square of tissue they broke off, they had to share a personal anecdote about their work in buildOn.”

The students then grilled her with inquiries. “What would you do if a student got homesick while building a school in a remote village?” “What would you do if students weren’t fulfilling their service obligations, not showing up to projects and the like?” After answering these and more, Millert asked the students questions of her own. The session ended with a presentation by the students about what they feel makes a program coordinator great.

[pullquote]Millert won the students over on many levels.[/pullquote]

“Millert won the students over on many levels,” Branch notes. “One girl had been encouraged to go on a school building trip last year but was apprehensive. She told me that Millert’s responses to her questions put her at ease enough to want to go this year. That’s exactly the kind of effortless comfort level we hope a buildOn program coordinator can foster.”

After Millert was offered the job, the students from the interview sent her letters of congratulations.

Taylor from Delaware Valley Charter High School: “Dear Aubrey, I can’t wait for you to start working with our school! I think you can really add some new things to our program and also teach us new things. Can’t wait for you to start.”

Kim (seen right), also from Delaware Valley: “Dear Aubrey, It was nice to hear you respond so well to the questions we had for you. I feel so lucky to have met you and have a head start on knowing who you are. You’re going to be great!”

Aubrey Millert responded to Branch via email as well: “Thanks so much for inviting me to Philly to meet the students. They are truly remarkable and I can tell what a positive impact buildOn has had on their lives.”

We warmly welcome Aubrey into the buildOn family, especially knowing that she comes with our students’ seal of approval.