Dress for Success encourages confidence, professionalism in students

In the Dress for Success (DFS) program, students put together an outfit to wear in work settings and do mock interviews with Idali Serrano, Workforce Development Technician. For the past three years, she has been working with the Get Focused, Stay Focused (GFSF) classes to encourage students to practice professionalism and utilize the resources that her program offers.

Through the DFS program, the student makes an appointment with Serrano, meets with her to discuss outfits that they can keep at no charge, and participates in a mock interview hosted by her.

“Not only do they feel good and look good,” Serrano said, “but they feel comfortable in knowing how to approach an interview.”

The clothing, varying in sizes and designs, comes from donations by staff members and students. The donations are housed in a closet adjacent to Serrano’s office, organized by size and type of clothing. Having an organized system and helpful staff members makes managing the students and distributing clothing more efficient.

“I get extremely bombarded when it’s during the time when [students are] going to be doing their interview [for] GFSF or some of their academy classes,” Serrano said. “The good thing is I have a supportive staff here in our department that will help me clothe the students.”

The DFS program is also spearheaded by Serrano in Alhambra High School and Mark Keppel High School. Serrano explains the process of pitching the program as a different experience depending on the school.

“It was pretty easy to pitch it to San Gabriel because my office is based [in] San Gabriel and I’m here three days a week.,” Serrano said. “They’re more familiar with my program and what I do, so it was very easy to go forward. When it came to Alhambra and Mark Keppel, it was a little different, although, it wasn’t much harder. They still supported me in that sense.”

Students who have used the DFS program found that their experience was worthwhile and beneficial to them. Junior Kenny Ho used the program to finalize community service hours at a clinic.

“It’s helpful to people who maybe don’t have the means to drop a lot of money on clothes,” Ho said. “And it’s convenient to know that if you forget that you have [a professional event], you don’t have to worry about wardrobe.”

Other students who were part of the GFSF classes, such as freshman Na Lin, gave the DFS program a try for their final exam, which included a mock interview. Lin believes the process of interviewing as part of the program will benefit her in the long run.

“It was a little scary,” Lin said. “But I feel like it will prepare me [for] when I actually go to get a job.”

At the beginning of the 2018 spring semester, the DFS program was incorporated into the GFSF and Explore Wheel curricula, as well as that of the Career Technical Educational classes as a result of a grant geared toward the collaboration that Serrano now works under. For many teachers in those subjects, the new addition is welcomed and has helped their students improve in their interviewing skills.

“It’s just [that the students are] more confident,” Health Careers and GFSF teacher Kathleen Loggins said. “The ones that are dressed are more ready [and] more prepared.”

The burst of confidence is a large reason why Serrano continues to push the DFS program forward. She also values feedback regarding their experience and what they enjoyed about the program from the students who use her resources.

“When I see them get dressed up, they get a little excited and after we do a mock interview, they kind of let those nerves fall to the wayside,” Serrano said. “When they come back with that confidence, it’s exactly what I wanted to see.”

Serrano believes that a set of professional clothing can make a large difference in how a student handles an interview and is essential when the time calls for it.

“I want everybody to have that one outfit [that is], washed, ironed, and ready to go,” Serrano said. “They’re not going to have to worry about what they have to wear. They’re just going to be focused on the interview; put [it] on [and] go.”

Serrano hopes more students will take advantage of the DFS program she created and walk away with more interviewing experience.

Students and staff can donate professional attire, such as blazers, blouses, dress pants, ties, and shoes, to Serrano at the College and Career Center.

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