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Herald in the Classroom

East Meadow Chamber program brings students out of the textbook and into the office

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Students filtered into the cafeteria at East Meadow High School last Friday in professional attire — suits, collared shirts and blouses. Seated at the tables were members of the community, some of whom were familiar — a baseball coach, a Boy Scout troop leader, a local church official. But that day, they were all “employers” at each student’s dream company.

One by one, the prospective “em-ployees” sat down in front of one of their future bosses, introduced themselves and presented their resumes.

The East Meadow Chamber of Commerce hosted the mock interview event for juniors and seniors who were taking Academy of Finance classes or were members of the Business Honor Societies at East Meadow and W.T. Clarke high schools.

This is the 12th year that chamber members, with the help of some East Meadow Kiwanis members, conducted the interviews. Each year, the program helps prepare students who will be looking for summer internships and jobs, said Toni McIntosh, the school district’s business chair.

Before the event, chamber members visit classes to give presentations on resume building and the basics of a job interview, explained Alan Hodish, who coordinates the program with chamber members Debbie Kirsh, Marcella Pizzo and Mitch Skoller. In preliminary lessons, they teach students to sell their skills, observe proper etiquette, dress professionally and leave a positive impression.

“When they come, they’re well prepared and enthusiastic,” Hodish said. “It gives them a boost of confidence.”

This year, Hodish also invited this reporter to interview two students interested in journalism, Danielle Skibins and Ashley Hipner. Skibins is a senior at East Meadow High and a concert photographer. She first got involved in music journalism when she was 13 and started taking photos of local shows at Revolution Bar & Music Hall in Amityville.

Skibins shared her hope of continuing to pursue music photography, and detailed her skills — which include photo editing, which she finds “therapeutic,” she said — and her experience working for Unclear magazine, an online publication dedicated to and run by young journalists.

Hipner is a junior at East Meadow High School who plays on the varsity girls’ basketball team. One of her core values is teamwork, she said, adding that she hoped to contribute to a company like the Heralds by using the skills she learned on the team and her experience at her family’s Westbury-based company, Elite Manufacturing Technologies. 

“It’s such a wonderful event,” said Ross Schiller, the founder of Ross L. Schiller & Associates and one of the interviewers. “I really appreciate being able to help mentor the students.”

This was the first year the event went by the name the Millie Jones Mock Interview Program, in memory of a past coordinator and a dedicated chamber member. Millie Jones, of East Meadow, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2017. After two months, it developed into a Stage 4 illness and spread to her liver. Her condition worsened last summer, and Jones died in September at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia. She was 63.

During her last moments, family members and friends sang her favorite songs and shared stories with her, her daughter Cassie, 33, recounted.

Jones was involved in philanthropy for years, working with the Girl Scouts of America, the Make A Wish Foundation, the American Cancer Society and East Meadow Kiwanis. She was the chamber president in 2012, and a member for more than 15 years who took part in many of the organization’s community engagement programs. She was given the Town of Hempstead Pathfinder Award in 2018, received the chamber’s David Rothbaum Silver Fox Award in 2013, was named a Nassau County Trailblazer in 2015 and was voted a Nassau County Woman of Distinction in 2013. 

Cassie Jones said her mother didn’t care about “material possessions or fancy clothes,” preferring to focus her life on experiences.

“She continued to help out and take part in the mock interviews, even when she was sick,” Hodish said. “Now she will forever be a part of them.”

Before the program began, Hodish presented a plaque to commemorating the first Millie Jones Mock Interview Program to Millie’s husband, David, and Cassie. This was the first time Cassie took part as an interviewer in honor of her mother.