Written by Cory Chimka
“I’m pretty nervous, I don’t know what to expect,” Dennis confessed to me over the telephone Sunday night. I was feeling the same way.
The next day, DC SCORES Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) workers Dennis, Raul and Christian; DC SCORES Summer Camp Director, Coach Nikki; DC SCORES summer intern Devon; and I were scheduled to participate in the Summer Jobs+ Professional Development Series at the White House.
Yes, that White House.
We rose before the sun the next day and met up at the East Gate of the White House grounds, laughing timidly, more used to seeing one another in athletic gear than business attire. We began feeling like VIPs immediately as we were hustled to the front of the block-long security line.
We proceeded past a heavy Secret Service presence to the White House Eisenhower Executive office building. The air thick with the ghosts of presidential administrations past, we made our way to the main auditorium where we joined Summer Jobs+ youth and supervisors from around the country, and sat down in silence.
Among a cadre of speakers to begin the workshop was Jonathan McBride, Special Assistant to the President & Director of White House Personnel. He regaled the students with amusing stories from earlier in his career: gaffes, faux pas and botched interviews. Then he told them what it was like to act as “lead talent scout for Barrack Obama,” and what he looks for as he travels the country and world looking for workers with the brass to be White House staff.
After some important coaching on personal branding from McBride, the students moved to a lecture hall upstairs in the beautiful historic building where they were led through a cover-letter writing workshop with the Director and Deputy Director of White House Correspondence. They learned to make their letters specific; how to highlight their attributes; and to revise, revise, revise.
We crossed the hall, cover letters in hand, and entered a room full of high level executive White House staff. Next we were given multiple mock interviews with these staff members followed by personal one-on-one feedback sessions.
Christian passed me while rotating between his first and second interview and feedback sessions.
“How’d it go?” I whispered. Christian grinned.
“I killed it!” I congratulated him, and wished him luck at the next interviews.
The Summer Jobs+ Professional Development Series at the White House and the VIP tour of the White House’s East Wing that followed it were days none of us will ever forget. We’ll all remember the valuable lessons we learned in each session and carry them with us from school to school and job to job.
As we walked to the METRO, we all discussed where we planned to hang the glossy autographed photos of the president and his family we were given as we exited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Thank you, President Obama!