Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Frame of Mind 4/04/07 Dressed to Impress

Abby Zupancic, dressed in a sweatshirt, short pants and sandals, stood in stark contrast to the pantsuits and casual business wear of the Dominican University women around her.

The Dominican fashion students were performing a skit for the women at Grace House, a home for female ex-convicts on Chicago’s West Side. The students discussed how to dress and act for a job interview.

Zupancic was an intentional failure, disorganized, talking too much about her family, knowing nothing about the company she was interviewing with. She was dismissed with a “great meeting you.”

“That’s when you know you’re not going to be hired,” one of the Grace residents said.
The session was the last of six run by the Dominican students at Grace. Students had talked about issues such as make-up, matching the right clothing with body type and exercise and nutrition in the previous five.

The session March 27 on interviews was fortuitous for Grace House resident Gail Williams, who had an interview scheduled the next day.

“The program ... it just taught me to be more motivated, no matter what,” Williams said.

Williams learned her strength can be her weakness. She likes to talk about her family and her children, she said. It’s something she’d have to stay away from in her interview.

The students also had tips on dress and how to answer typical interview questions.
“I was nervous,” she said. “I’m not nervous anymore.”

Grace House Program Director the Rev. Bernadine Dowdell said it was important for people in the community to work with the Grace women. The women at the home needed to see there were people who cared.

“The women here need this morale boost. They need this education,” Dowdell said. “They have so many obstacles to overcome.”

Denise Acevedo will face many obstacles herself. A Grace resident since February, Acevedo said she wants to get her high school diploma and to find a part-time job.
The Dominican students taught Acevedo to be creative, she said, to have a better outlook.

“They did a class on positive thinking, and coming from the addiction side, you have a negative outlook on life,” she said.

“They care about people. That means a lot to me,” she added. “It helps me grow period. I’m not by myself.”

-Chris LaFortune

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