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This Week on #WorkforceWednesday: Perfecting the Job Interview
Alex LeMoine

District 155 hosted mock interviews at Crystal Lake Central on December 4, 2019 and at Prairie Ridge High School on December 5, 2019. Mark Rzepecki’s students in the Language Academy and Christine Graham’s speech class participated in the event at Central, while Steve Karlblom’s students in the work program took part at Prairie Ridge. 

Both schools invited district 155 staff, as well as members of the community, to come and interview students. In three different rounds of interviews, students were asked many questions related to their academic interests and achievements, their strengths, job skills and plans for joining the workforce.

The event gave students the opportunity to prepare for an interview, interact with members of the workforce, and practice communication skills. Students at the event represented a variety of grade levels and content areas.

“I want to be a nurse and the communication I had with other people really helped me because later on I’m going to have patients and I need to communicate with them,” said Angela Hernandez, a freshman at Crystal Lake Central in the Language Academy.

“I think this is preparing me by giving me real-world examples and getting interviewed by three different people because not every interviewer is the same,” said Kathleen Costello, a senior in Christine Graham’s speech class. 

Administrators from district 155 and district 47, members of the D155 Board of Education and representatives from a variety of local companies were present at the event.

Rob Revak, the retired Human Resources Director at AptarGroup, Inc., a manufacturing company in Crystal Lake, said, “Whether you consciously think about it or not, probably a first impression happens within the first 30 seconds. So, I suggest to students to leave their cell phones in the car, have a resume that has been looked over [because] that is very telling in terms of attention to detail.”

Each student was scored by their interviewers and given constructive feedback to take forward with them into the workforce. 

For more of our conversation on perfecting the job interview, listen to D155’s Workforce Wednesday podcast with Crystal Lake Central’s Christine Graham here.

#WorkforceWednesday is a marketing campaign that will provide valuable content to prepare students with life-ready skills and to initiate and strengthen workforce partnerships in our community which aligns with the district’s strategic plan.

The #WorkforceWednesday marketing campaign is an opportunity for the district to engage, interact, and have two-way conversations with students, staff, business partners and industry professionals across multimedia platforms.

D155 Presents #WorkforceWednesday with Susan Powalowski
Alex LeMoine

District 155 is excited to launch Workforce Wednesday with Susan Powalowski, a 2007 Cary-Grove graduate who now works as a Search Automation Specialist at Google in Chicago, IL. After graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2011, Powalowski began her career at Google in June of 2014.

Powalowski came back to Cary-Grove in November of 2019 to share her experiences after high school and in the world of digital marketing with current district 155 students. She sat down with us to discuss what she’s learned since her tenure at Cary-Grove and how students can best prepare themselves for life after high school. 

“The luxury you have as a student in high school is that if you don’t do well in one class or in one subject, it’s one class and one subject and the consequences are not very high,” said Powalowski.  “It’s very low risk to try different things in high school and fail at them because that’s how you learn your own preferences.”

She stressed the importance of taking risks and exploring your interests during high school, as well as understanding the value of what you learn.

“My Intro to Business and Intro to Computers classes taught me skills that I use every day,” said Powalowski.

She recalls not knowing which experiences were going to lead her to where she is now, but was committed to trying as many new things as possible.

“I ended up getting a second internship before my senior year of school that put me more on the business side at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and that opened a lot of doors for me that I didn’t even see until years down the line,” Powalowski said. “That ended up being the reason that I got hired into an internship after college in digital marketing.”

Fast forward to 2020, and Powalowski has been working at Google for the past five years.

As for how to best prepare for the workforce, Powalowski shared what she thinks are the most important tips to land a dream job of your own:

  1. “…Use your career center early and often, and get them to work on your resume.”

  2. “Apply for jobs that you don’t think you’re going to get because you never know, and it’s good practice to interview.”

  3. “Research your type of role and know the salary range going into [the interview] to make sure it’s what you want.”

  4. “...Ask excellent questions in the interview. My favorite is, ‘What does it take to be successful in this role?’”

  5. “In the interview, be thoughtful about your answers and don’t be afraid to take a pause and collect your thoughts.”

For more of our conversation with Susan Powalowski, listen in to D155’s Workforce Wednesday podcast here.

#WorkforceWednesday is a marketing campaign that will provide valuable content to prepare students with life-ready skills and to initiate and strengthen workforce partnerships in our community which aligns with the district’s strategic plan.

The #WorkforceWednesday marketing campaign is an opportunity for the district to engage, interact, and have two-way conversations with students, staff, business partners and industry professionals across multimedia platforms.

Cary-Grove Student’s Experiment to be Performed on the ISS
Alex LeMoine

As of 9:59 a.m. on Saturday, November 2, Cary-Grove High School sophomore, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Fournier’s winning experiment was launched into space. After winning the Higher Orbits: Go for Launch! national competition, Fournier’s experiment, which she developed with four other students, is now being tested by astronauts on the International Space Station. 

Members of team “Reginae Reginarum”, translated to “Queen of Queens” in Latin, will be able to access information, data and pictures over the next several weeks to monitor their experiment's progress in space.

“We plan to follow up and analyze the data. We would like to stay involved with researching this to the best of our abilities,” said Fournier.

After attending the District 155 Girls in Engineering, Math and Science (GEMS) Conference in 2017 and 2018, Fournier was contacted by the Go for Launch! program and participated at the Scot Forge event in Spring Grove, IL during the summer of 2018. 

There she worked with four other female teammates to develop an experiment that was launched into space in November of this year. Fournier was invited to attend the launch at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia. 

The goal of Fournier’s experiment is to test the astaxanthin production of Haematococcus Pluvialis algae in microgravity. Astaxanthin is an anti-inflammatory substance that is used in multiple medications to treat Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, high cholesterol and other common conditions. Fournier and her group want to see if this specific strain of algae will produce more astaxanthin in space and if it is more potent. 

“The idea was inspired by wanting to help people,” said Fournier. “From there we decided that we wanted to find something that has the potential to improve medications for common diseases. That is when we came across this mind-blowing algae.”

Fournier hopes other girls interested in STEM will take advantage of all the opportunities available to them. She plans to continue her involvement with District 155’s GEMS program as a volunteer for as long as she can. Her goal is to spread information about her experiment and encourage other girls in STEM.

“I would say to consider yourself very lucky to be interested in this field and, if you love it, continue in it. And lastly, never doubt yourself or your abilities and never place limits on yourself and what you can accomplish,” said Fournier. 

Two other Cary-Grove students have won the 2019 Go For Launch! American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Apollo Series competition since Fournier’s win in 2018. 

Sophomores Daniel Marek and Jake Drews were a part of the winning team “Flammenwerfer Axolotl” who developed an experiment to test how cabbage moth larva makes a chrysalis in microgravity. The team hopes their findings will reveal how these moths could impact farming in space.

Drews and Marek’s experiment is set to launch to the International Space Station in 2020.

Cary-Grove Student Earns Perfect SAT & ACT Scores
Alex LeMoine
A Cary-Grove High School senior is the first student in District 155 history to earn perfect scores on SAT and ACT exams. Ved Patel received a 36 the first time he took the ACT, his sophomore year. During his junior year, he received a 1580 on the SAT, but thought he could do even better and took the exam a second time. 

“I thought it would be a fun, low-pressure challenge to try to improve my score,” said Ved Patel, a Cary-Grove senior. “I wasn't expecting a perfect score since the SAT has almost no curve, but it was an awesome surprise to wake up to on score release day!”

Ved says he was nervous to first check his score on the day they were released. He checked at 3:00 a.m., but results weren’t posted just yet. It wasn’t until he received a text from his father, that he learned he achieved a rare feat.

“As soon as I got to school at 7:00 a.m. my dad, who was in Germany on a business trip, texted me that I got a 1600. I thought he was lying, so I checked myself. I was shaking when I sent a picture of my score to my mom, who didn't believe me at first either,” said Patel. "I had to send her my CollegeBoard password so she could check for herself.” 

Ved said he put aside a few hours every day to study and take a few sections of the practice tests. He also helped some of his friends with SAT prep on the side. 

“During the test, it's very important to stay level headed and calm. If you think some problems look extra challenging, don't get flustered; just try them at the end,” he said.

Cary-Grove High School principal, Neil Lesinkski, says Ved embodies the qualities of a Trojan student. 

“His work ethic, passion for learning, and natural curiosity are second to none. In addition to being an incredible student, Ved possesses the quality of character that we try to instill in all Trojans. We are proud of all he has accomplished and extremely excited to see his future impact on our world.”

Ved was also recently named a National Merit Semifinalist in September. He says Cary-Grove has given him opportunities to be successful academically.

“My teachers have been the best part of my time at CG. They are all energetic and passionate, and have always gone above and beyond, sometimes at the cost of their personal time to help me succeed,” said Patel.

As for his future, Ved plans to study biology or biomedical engineering and intends to go to medical school after earning a bachelor’s degree.

Ved, for now, is enjoying the rush of making District 155 history. 

“My whole family is excited since this was a fantasy-esque scenario,” he said.

District 155 Receives Grant for Learning Kitchen
Shannon Podzimek

District 155 received a $240,000 state grant to expand learning opportunities for students by incorporating a 21st century learning kitchen into Cary-Grove High School. These kitchens give students the chance to explore different career options by using equipment that is current and will be used in the future. 

“We’re lucky to have this opportunity. It’s the one class we look forward to every day and it’s awesome to get in here and cook, and have fun with other people in our class,” said McKenna Brennan, Cary-Grove senior.

Students have an opportunity to take a variety of classes including Culinary Arts I & II, Advanced Culinary, Foods, and Nutrition and Wellness. These classes focus on nutrition and food preparation including food service and meal management. This school year, 275 students at Cary-Grove are enrolled in culinary classes. 

“It’s a great space for cooking and gatherings, but we also use this classroom as a wellness room. We move all of the tables and we’ve done yoga and meditation. We’ve become a family in here and I’m so thankful for what we do,” said Courtney McKnight, Cary-Grove culinary teacher.

District 155 hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, December 17.

“We want to thank Senator McConchie for acknowledging the need to create state-of-the-art learning kitchens to prepare students for careers in industry and technology,” said Steve Olson, superintendent of District 155. 

District 155 also renovated its learning kitchen at Crystal Lake Central and Prairie Ridge High Schools this past summer. During the 2017-2018 school year, the district added a state-of-the-art Culinary Kitchen at Crystal Lake South High School which boasts professional, restaurant-grade food preparation and cooking equipment. Students at Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central, and Prairie Ridge also have the opportunity to go to South to take advanced courses and receive certificates.