“Project confidence. Be aware of your body language,” Matt Pirtle instructed. “Relax and don’t forget to smile.”
That was the message recently as the teacher directed juniors and seniors into rooms of waiting business and community leaders.
Liberty High School student Kovan Barzani took a seat across from restaurant owner Todd Metten.
“My biggest strength is teamwork,” the senior said. “I don’t think you can get anywhere unless you can communicate with others.”
The mock interview kicked off a series of student rotations at the Frisco ISD ISM Business Symposium. The Independent Study and Mentorship Program, or ISM, prepares students from all six District high schools for success in college and career.
“I’ve always known what I wanted to do,” Barzani told Metten. “My parents escaped Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in the ‘70s.”
Barzani says a visit to the country in 1997 inspired him. He hopes to study international relations and work to address violence, suffering and other humanitarian issues.
“I feel morally obligated,” he said. “I know as a human being, I can’t change everything. But it is possible to deter it and to try to bring people together.”
The goal of the ISM program is to help each student find that passion. Students conduct interviews with people who work in a chosen field and then select a mentor to gain real world experience.
“It’s not only to help them affirm what they want to do, but also to discover what they don’t want to do,” said Pirtle, who teaches the ISM course at Centennial and Heritage High Schools. “We want them find the career path that is right for them.”
Gifted and high-achieving students must first apply and interview to participate in the program. The Business Symposium is their first opportunity to interact with business professionals, ask questions and learn from their experiences.
“It’s a great process because we’re asking them to do things that are outside of their comfort zone in order to help them gain experience and reach their professional goals,” Pirtle said.
More than 160 students from across the District were split between the FISD Administration Building and Career and Technical Education Center. About 100 local business professionals volunteered their time to offer feedback and advice.
“Things don’t always go the way they are planned. Know that,” sales director Bobby Johnson told a student from Liberty High School. “Money comes and goes. It can be there one day and gone the next. The advice I would give to you – no matter what you do – enjoy it. Make sure it serves a greater purpose than just yourself.”
Technology procurement professional Eric Dulin told students to tailor their resume to the desired job.
“As an employer, we only have one to two minutes to look at a resume,” he said. “I’m really focusing on making their resume pop with things that are relevant to that employer. I tell them not to list positions, but to list accomplishments.”
Heritage High School student Jessica Aquino said the experience was helpful.
“Everyone was really nice and friendly,” she said. “It kind of eased a lot of the pressure of coming here and talking to people.”
The professionals were impressed too.
“These kids are amazing,” Dulin said. “And they’re not kids anymore. These young adults are amazing.”