Matilija students get real
by Bret Bradigan
For many of the 340 students at Matilija Junior High School,
the annual Portfolio Project is their first exposure to the expectations
of the working world. It is where they learn to present themselves
and their work to business and professional people, some of whom
may one day end up hiring them.
This the fifth year for the Rotary Club-sponsored Portfolio Project,
where each of the seventh- and eighth-grade students spend about
15 or 20 minutes being questioned over their portfolio of junior
high school projects.
Eighth-grader Mary Lukasiewicz put together a package of school
work, including a report on a Supreme Court case, a children's
book she wrote and a project from art class. She also put herself
together, dressing smartly in a sweater blouse.
"It was nice practice for real interviews." She learned
"how to think of answers right away when you're asked.
I learned how to have a successful interview when I go after
a job in the future."
While she was "a little nervous," she said it helped
that her interviewer, Gil Lowry, was acquainted with her family.
Jim Berube, Ojai Unified School District's budget and finance
chief, and a Rotarian, said the program was imported from Orcutt
Union School District near Santa Maria. The team of Dr. Carl
Gross, Larry Mulholland and Rebecca Watson got the project rolling
"It just looked very powerful," Berube said. A former
Rotary district president "called it the best youth program
he's ever saw."
Matilija Principal Christine Golden said that teachers help the
kids prepare for their interviews through a variety of lessons.
"They learn how to shake hands, how to do a cover letter,
about grooming," she said.
The kids were impressive, said interviewer Allan Jacobs, especially
when media reports overexpose the doings of delinquents to the
exclusion of good students.
Dr. Todd Beaty said, "The kids are much more focused, much
more so than when I was that age. They are telling me things
about their career objectives - they're already on their way
to building up their portfolios."
It is also an opportunity to broaden their connections to the
wider world. "For some of these kids, we're the only adults
they come in contact besides their parents."
James Martinez said he was prepared for the worst in his contact
with complete stranger. "I thought the interviewers would
be stern with us. They were nice." He warmed up a little
bit when he and his interviewer "talked about sports. I
learned 'don't be nervous. Just act calm. He's (the interviewer)
not going to hurt you.'"
The interview went smoothly, though Martinez admitted sheepishly
that one of his projects in his portfolio "didn't have all
about it explained. You've got to prepare yourself for everything."
Even the best.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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