SCHENECTADY — Before a recent job interview at Build-a-Bear, 18-year-old Steinmetz Career and Leadership Academy student Samantha Soto pieced together a suitable outfit from a new cache of professional clothes at the school.
While Soto is still waiting to hear back about the job, she said she felt good heading in for the interview dressed appropriately for the occasion.
“I felt confident,” Soto said of her new outfit.
The clothes, which she chose from among dozens of outfits, are part of the new Dress for Success program at Steinmetz. Officially rolled out Wednesday, the program was spearheaded by the Schenectady Rotary Club.
During an event last year, Mark Sheehan, Schenectady Rotary past president and a Steinmetz assistant principal, noted that the students were dressed in their best attire but could still use some more support. So the Rotary Club began assembling the business clothes store, free to students and regularly refilled with new items. The City Mission pitched in, too, bringing their expertise from setting up similar rooms at Mohonasen High School and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Schenectady.
“I have clothes, but it’s more teen clothing,” Soto said. “I don’t have business casual.”
The new clothes room is full of business casual: suits and slacks, blouses and skirts, dress shoes and handbags. But the program is more than just a room full of clothes, which Sheehan said will be continuously replenished through donations, drives and other contributions.
Starting next week, the school will host a series of 45-minute classes to teach a variety of professional skills: information about different careers, interview skills and the importance of presenting yourself with professionalism. Employees of Price Chopper, Mohawk Harbor, the city of Schenectady and Ballston Spa National Bank are participating, Sheehan said.
“It’s not just about having the clothes; it’s also about preparing students to go out for interviews and the workplace,” said Gregory Fields, principal at Steinmetz.
AJ DeLucia, of the Dapper Man Program that partners with the City Mission, sporting a pocket square and blazer Wednesday, said proper attire is a crucial part of the job hunt and helps a job seeker feel more confident about their prospects.
“Sometimes, that’s the difference between whether or not they get the job,” he said.
And even if it’s not for an interview, the students are sure to find an occasion for their new threads.
“Prom is coming up, too,” said 20-year-old Alisa Watkins, who is set to graduate next month. “You’ve got some really nice shoes and dresses.”
Watkins, who was recently accepted to Schenectady County Community College, where she plans to study nursing, said it’s always important to look your best when trying to make a strong first impression.
“The first look is the best look,” Watkins said.