Mock Interviews Prepare Students with Special Needs for the Future

Beth Talabisco interviews a student at Atlantis Academy in Coral Springs. Photo by Jen Russon.

By: Jen Russon

Students and staff in Atlantis Academy nervously paced the hallway outside their classroom, waiting to be called in.

Professionally attired and showing, at times, a bit of nervousness, the students honestly answered what they had to offer potential employers; and were just as candid about the challenges they believe they might face.

Mock interviews are part of the L.I.F.E. program which stands for living independently with fundamental experiences at Atlantis Academy. It provides help for students 18 and up to learn fundamental life skills.

Resumes in her lap, Beth Talabisco, community outreach director for Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine, called in students individually, asking each of the five male and two female students similar questions most job seekers expect to hear.

Designed to help the students sharpen job skills and work their way up the ladder, the mock interviews provide real-life practice.

Coral Springs Coconut Creek Regional Chamber of Commerce

“Tell me about yourself. Why do you want this job?” Talabisco asked during each of the five-minute interviews.

She followed up with questions like, “what are some of your weaknesses?” and “where do you see yourself in five years?”

Brooke, 18, explained it’s hard for her to work with too many distractions, yet she loves people and is hoping to become a doctor.

When asked how she might better focus, Brooke said she would ask customers to be patient with her – remind them she is trying. 

More positive exchanges followed, with students who shared their hopes in becoming managers of movie theaters, sandwich shops, stock retail — or work as tailors in the fashion world.

“You’re doing great” and “this is fun” is something the students heard a lot during their meetings.

Kyle, 20, said he loves shopping at the Publix near his home in Coconut Creek and hopes to one day become a store manager. He finished off his interview with lively banter about his love of fishing.

Talabisco said she loves fishing, as well, and shared a few memories of catching small fish with her grandfather, when she was just a girl.

She asked Kyle again how his teachers would describe him, and he politely reminded her she already posed this question.

“Honest, respectful, and hardworking,” Talabisco repeated, checking her notes. “I just wanted to hear it again.”

“That’s true, Ms. Beth.”

“That’s true, Mr. Kyle,” she said, leaning in for a handshake.

When he left, Talabisco commented on how enlightening this experience had been, and how eager she was to report back to Commissioner Udine, who remembers the students’ readiness to tackle the job market from his visit in September.

Local businesses affiliated with the program, already employing some of its students are the Walmart Supercenter on Coral Ridge, Sunshine Kleen Coin Laundry, and the El Buen Gusto Restaurant located in both Coral Springs and Parkland.

Talabisco said interviewing the students reminded her of the best part of her former career in staffing: getting to know people better.

She said she is confident the students she interviewed will make great additions to companies when they apply during the next school break.

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