I grew up on a farm with really good parents. I was taught good manners and kindness and compassion. I don't always get it right, but those are things I was exposed to each day.
I was not taught much about business protocols. Of course, my mom and dad kept ledgers for tax purposes and I helped with those. But, skills like shaking hands, professional communication, how to dress, and interviewing were not part of their daily lives. Those I had to ferret out as I "went into the world." And, I made a few mistakes... actually, some were doozies! But over time, one figures it out.
My kids grew up in a home where these skills were part of their growing up. They learned to shake hands firmly and look people in the eye. They learned, at least to some extent, what conversations belong at work and which don't. They learned basic interview questions and each one of them landed the first jobs they applied for... as a grocery clerk, a truck wash attendant, and an in-the-pickup-data-recorder for in-field agricultural testing.
The children who come to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch have endured so much. They have been busy surviving, not learning basic life skills. So, we try to teach them.
Tracey Watson is the Program Manager for our Qualified Residential Treatment Program on the Minot campus. Tracey is a remarkable individual, and we are so fortunate that she chooses to be a Rancher. She has three Masters degrees related to the education of special children and deep experience working in school systems. Even more importantly, Tracey emanates love for the children, an expectation that they can do their best, and a belief that each can find success.
Tracey runs an Independent Living Group for the children in the cottages she supervises. In this group, the kids learn the things my husband and I tried to teach our kids. Grocery shopping, meal planning, leasing an apartment... and basic professional workplace skills, like interviewing.
She invited me to be one of the interviewers for the mock interview session with the group. There were about 12 or 15 interviewers, so each child would sit with one of us. They had been prepped. They were dressed as appropriately as their wardrobes allowed. They had talked about what questions may be asked. They knew to speak clearly and look at the person they were with. They each chose what job they were interviewing for. A 12-year-old girl wanted to practice and interview for McDonald's, so she could earn money when she turns 14. A 16-year-old girl wanted to interview for a Certified Nursing Assistant training program position in a long-term care facility. She wants to work as a CNA as she studies nursing in college. What about the 15-year-old boy I was assigned to? He wants to be a NASA Botanist on Mars.
And, man was he ready for the interview. He told me what classes he was taking, NASA's time schedule for Mars settlement, how his love of plant biology and desire to be on the "final frontier" perfectly line up. He was prepared, he looked me in the eye, he knows he has to get that one "B" up to an "A" to get into the right college. He told me one of his greatest strengths is that he is not a "redirect kind of employee." "If you tell me the goal, any non-negotiables in the process, and a deadline, I will get you there. I stay focused and get to the needed result."
If I was from NASA, I would have hired him.
I pray that someday they will.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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