Fourteen-year-old Diana Garcia was not born with a gift for gossip, at least when it comes to chatting with adults.
But for her and her first year classmates at Cristo Rey Columbus High School, she doesn’t need to be. New students learn that following adults, especially in a professional setting, is a skill to be developed.
Cristo Rey Columbus, a Catholic college preparatory high school that opened five years ago in the city center, welcomed 110 freshmen seven days ago with a weeklong skills course general and professionalism.
The course culminated for freshmen on Tuesday when they sat down with local business and community leaders during a series of “speed-chat” sessions, similar to the rapid exposure of speed dating. Freshmen were matched with adults in 10-minute rotations to learn about different careers and practice maintaining conversation and eye contact.
“Fourteen-year-olds, on the whole, are often uncomfortable talking to adults,” said Jim Foley, president of Cristo Rey Columbus. “But talking to adults is essential if you want to be successful in a professional work environment.”
Cristo Rey students quickly find themselves in this environment. Each student performs a professional work-study program once a week in a participating company. Right after Labor Day, students will be placed in banks, municipal government offices, and non-profit organizations, among other institutions. On Tuesday, 120 volunteers showed up to chat with the children.
They sat kneeling with the students in low teal chairs lining a long hallway on the first floor of the school. They chatted, discussed student plans after high school, and shared their career experiences.
“At first I felt a little nervous,” Diana said. “And then slowly I started to open up a bit.”
But just as the students were getting comfortable, a loud bell signaled them to change partners and start all over again: a new introduction, a new handshake, a new challenge to follow a fast-talking professional. . The process repeated for a full hour.
And the professionals did not take it out on them.
“I didn’t think I needed to adjust the way I spoke to them,” said Morgan Pelt, of the Ohio Development Services Agency. “I remember being in their shoes, being scared and all those feelings when I was talking to an adult. I want them to be able to adapt and learn.”
Nehemiah Clayton, 14, was not intimidated by adults, he said after the exercise. But he conversed cautiously.
“I actually like conversations a lot. It just seems normal to me,” he said. “But I would say I still have to polish things up. Every person is different, and you can’t necessarily catch your favorite conversations every time.”
Nehemiah wants to be a defense lawyer, he said. He’s already targeting Harvard Law School.
Each of the 47 members of Cristo Rey Columbus’ first class was accepted into at least one college last year. They received around $ 1.4 million in college scholarships, according to the school. And many were the first in their families to attend university.
“It’s because of us that they get the job training and relationship building,” said co-op director John Petro. “You can’t relate to anyone, especially an adult professional, if you don’t communicate using your words and your listening skills. “
Diana Garcia said she doesn’t have a dream job on her mind yet, but feels a little better prepared when she goes to pick it up.
“It didn’t seem forced at all. It was normal,” she said. “It was very helpful, because I can actually work and, remember, these are normal people.”