By Beniamino Nardin, Harwood correspondent
In the middle school gym, plastic fold-up tables were set out in a horseshoe. A community member sat at each table, carefully analyzing résumés and questioning ninth graders. The mock interviews conducted at Harwood Union on December 15 gave freshmen the opportunity to experience what a real-life interview might be like. A diverse group of community members offered their time and skills to make it possible.
“Harwood runs a great program,” said Ed Read with Mad River Landscaping. “Interviewing is about confidence and not being cocky.” Read said there shouldn’t be any fluff on a résumé, that applicants should be conversational and have the ability to elaborate, which sets one interviewee apart from another. “The feedback I give will help when doing a real interview,” said Read.
Tara Cariano, who leads the Personal Future Exploration (PFE) course at Harwood, tries to make the class as connected to the real world as possible. She led the students to identify their strengths, then taught them to write an effective résumé and explored their ability to confidently discuss and express their strengths. “It’s about practicing confidence,” said Cariano, “and building those skills.” Cariano wanted the mock interviews to be a meaningful experience for students to connect with the community beyond the building.
Previously, the PFE course conducted mock interviews with teachers. While Cariano believed this was a good practice, she didn’t think it gave students an authentic interviewing experience. Cariano and Heidi Turgeon reached out to Ellen Berrings, Head of Connected Learning Development, with a new idea for an authentic interview to give to the students.
This level of mock interviews had never been done before. Berrings and Rachael Potts, head of internship connections, made connections with the community members. “We’re grateful for our community partners,” said Berrings. “Our community is unbelievably supportive. No one gave a no.”
The Class of 2025 had been preparing for the mock interviews for over a month, with training in résumé writing, proper etiquette and more. “Sixty-plus percent were terrified,” said Cariano. She led them in mindfulness practices to bolster their own confidence when tackling big situations.
“It was stressful,” said Austin Welch, a Harwood freshman. “We’ve never done anything like it before.” Nonetheless, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’m grateful for the experience because it gives me abilities to help with a real interview,” said Welch. “Now, I feel more prepared for [one] in the future.”
Harwood thanked all interviewers who participated in the mock interviews: David Cohen, owner of Baked Beads; Patrick Haigh, American Flatbread; Chris Woods, CEO of Business Research Networks; Ed Read, Mad River Landscaping; Kaiya Korb, principal of Waitsfield Elementary School; Crawford Appleby, attorney; Moie Moulton, director of Neck of the Woods; Ellen Bagnato, VSAC; Liz Schlegel from the Alchemist Foundation; Rebecca Baruzzi, Mad River Community Fund; Bethany Harrington and Sam Lacasse, Ben & Jerry’s; Susan Buchanan, owner of Tucker Hill Inn; Sarina Gulisano, The Sweet Spot; John Lebourveau, Darn Tough; and Sarah Lund, Sugarbush.