Ignite CCA is putting feet on their mission

Published 1:01 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2023

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Tracy K. Hall

Ignite College and Career Academy (CCA) serves as a beacon of hope for Sumter County. They were charged not only with Sumter County Schools’ mission to graduate students college and career ready, but to “ignite the aspirational spirit of students, inspiring and empowering them to become leaders in a world-renowned workforce that will impact generations of learners and workers.” It is an awesome responsibility to take on and Ignite is passionate about it every day. It is a mission which calls for a grand view, but it is also a mission which must be taken one step at a time.

One of the steps in reaching their goal is to improve employability skills of the students. In this school year alone 118 students, 11th and 12th graders, have had mock interviews. A mock interview is practice for a real interview and gives the student practice with the experience of taking the first face to face step in presenting themselves to employers. The Americus Rotary Club was instrumental in assisting the CCA in affording the students the opportunity as their club members played the “employer” for each one on one interview.

Dr. Don Gilman, the CEO of Ignite states the purpose of the mock interviews is to “enhance the students’ skill level and proficiency when it comes to interviewing. It is a soft skill employers are really wanting students to have.” Ja’niya Thomas had the experience last week and reports it was very helpful for her. Ja’niya is a work-based learning student at Ignite. She has had an interview before with Pheobe Sumter Medical Center which resulted in her being placed at the hospital, but as practice tends to do, she “did better in this one.” She was asked if this process is truly helpful. She responded, “It prepares me for interviews and questions probably going to be asked and helps me to develop my answers.” She believes it is beneficial for all students, and suggests Ignite make this a consistent and regular part of their lesson planning. Don appreciated the input and Ja’niya’s advice, as he regularly seeks out a student’s input to ensure Ignite is meeting the need and supporting what students see as truly important for their growth. In addition to mock interviews, the CCA incorporates resume building and letter writing into their curriculum as part of their work-based learning. Ja’niya is pleased with this offering as well and has completed the task. However, with each new experience she is learning, so when Don asked her if students would find it helpful to have a member of the business community edit the resume, she responded with a quick, “yes!”

Mock interviews receive a grade as well as garner the student experience. The “employer,” much like a true employer rates the student on how well they articulate their thoughts, how efficient their solutions are, and the student’s overall presentation. How they dress and present themselves are criteria the student is graded upon, just as is how confident in their skill set they are. Unlike most true interviews, the mock interview offers feedback on things the employer sees the student being strong in and also offers feedback on how to improve.

With each new experience, the student is perfecting their interview style and increasing their confidence. As they sharpen their skills, Don and his staff seek out what the student’s needs are and how they can help further meet those needs. When fulfilling a promise to make generational change, taking the journey one step at a time is crucial. With every resume built and rebuilt, each time Ignite seeks out how they can enrich a student’s potential, with the everyday courage to step into a new experience, with each investment the community makes into the CCA, Ignite is one step closer to meeting their mission of creating a world-renowned workforce that will impact generations of learners and workers. Lead on, Ignite, lead on!