Out in the Community: First Impressions Count

Over the last two years, owner Mark Mattson has been active on the planning committee for the leadership group that grew out of the #ProudlyDekalb effort, an effort focused on growth, development, branding, and planning for DeKalb. The main purpose of the leadership group is to assess and develop leadership resources for our community. Last Spring, this group planned and hosted a Leadership Symposium that drew together high school and college students, people from business, non-profit and government sectors, all the way through retired professionals to discuss issues that affect our community and ideas to improve.

One of the highlights of the symposium was the interaction between the younger people and the more experienced professionals. Looking to capitalize on this highlight, the leadership group wanted to provide something aimed not just at student leaders, but students in general. This led to the creation of First Impressions Count: Essential Skills Workshop, a workshop designed to help develop professional interpersonal skills. The group reached out to community leaders to volunteer as mentors while coordinating with the economics education program at DeKalb High School.

In a 5-hour period, over 140 students making up five separate class sections met with their class in the DHS Media Center where they participated in several speed-networking-style, one-on-one interviews with local community leaders. The students were evaluated by each volunteer, also getting to observe their peers in the process. Handshakes, “elevator speeches,” confidence, verbal and non-verbal communication were evaluated.

The next day, the students received their evaluations; and the day after that, they participated in a follow-up session with a representative from NIU Career Services, giving them a chance to discuss the experience and reflect on their performance.

Feedback was tremendous, and plans are already underway for this program to continue with new classes next semester!

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