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Class project offers job experience: CCS fifth-graders learn future lessons working at Pizza Ranch

Erica Dischino / Tribune Community Christian School fifth-grade students Micah Nelson, left, and Pearl Bailey put their prior training into use and interact with customers Wednesday at Pizza Ranch in Willmar. Students from the Willmar school worked in the restaurant's dining room as part of a class project that also included writing resumes and participating in job interviews.1 / 10
Erica Dischino / Tribune Fifth-grade students from Kristyn Clark’s class at the Community Christian School in Willmar wrote down what makes up a good resume for their future job applications. 2 / 10
Erica Dischino / Tribune Jeff Keller, the manager of the Pizza Ranch in Willmar, talks about the job hiring process and provides tips to teacher Kristyn Clark’s fifth-grade class Nov. 14 at the Community Christian School in Willmar. Keller gave advice on interviewing, characteristics he looks for in a job applicant and what to say in a cover letter.3 / 10
Erica Dischino / Tribune Community Christian School fifth-grade student Jack Velyan carries dirty dishes to the kitchen Wednesday at Pizza Ranch in Willmar. 4 / 10
Erica Dischino / Tribune Community Christian School fifth-grade student Jack Kveps picks up dirty dishes Wednesday from Austin Kastner, left, and his mother Julia Kastner at Pizza Ranch in Willmar. The CCS students spent time the prior week learning about the hiring process and going through mock interviews with the Pizza Ranch manager.5 / 10
Erica Dischino / Tribune Willmar Pizza Ranch employee Shannon Daberkow hands out plastic gloves to fifth-grade students from Community Christian School before they clean tables Wednesday at the Pizza Ranch in Willmar.6 / 10
Erica Dischino / Tribune Fifth-grade student Sloan Stahnke dressed to impress for her interview Nov. 14 with Pizza Ranch manager Jeff Keller at the Community Christian School in Willmar. 7 / 10
Erica Dischino / Tribune Arlene Groen, from left, gives her grandson Andrew Borstad, a fifth-grade student from Community Christian School, a hug Wednesday while while his peer Micah Nelson talks about their field trip. Groen visited the Pizza Ranch in Willmar to see her grandson and other CCS students learn about the value of hard work. Prior to the trip, the students learned about the job hiring process as well as writing cover letters and resumes. 8 / 10
Erica Dischino / Tribune Jeff Keller, the manager of the Pizza Ranch in Willmar, left, asks fifth-grade students from Community Christian School in Willmar what they would do in a stressful situation. Keller came to their class Nov. 14 to introduce students to the hiring process, including a mock interview session.9 / 10
Erica Dischino / Tribune Fifth-grade student Gabrielle Bollig answers a question in an interview conducted by Jeff Keller, the manager of the Pizza Ranch in Willmar. Keller came to teacher Kristyn Clark’s class Nov. 14 to introduce students to the hiring process and gave advice on interviewing, characteristics he looks for in a job applicant and what to say in a cover letter. 10 / 10

WILLMAR — The Pizza Ranch dining room buzzed with activity Wednesday as a small crowd of new workers learned about their new jobs.

It didn't take long before the excited members of Community Christian School's fifth-grade class had settled down to work.

As part of a class project at the Willmar school, the students had written their resumes and sent them to Pizza Ranch manager Jeff Keller to apply for jobs. He interviewed them a week ago and hired them to work there at lunchtime Wednesday.

The 19 students wore Pizza Ranch aprons and orange rubber bracelets. Cards printed with the company's mission and vision hung from lanyards around their necks.

Keller and employee Shannon Daberkow ushered the students through the basics of watching over the buffet restaurant's dining room, but not before Keller had a talk with them.

Their experience would help them understand that they need to work for and earn things in life, he said.

"We have to earn a living and take care of our families," he said, gesturing to himself and Daberkow.

In the future, they would need to do that, too, he told the students. "It gives you a sense of pride."

He offered some tips about working for him — they are guests, not customers; be polite; present a positive image.

At first, the students were so excited they could hardly stand still, but after a few minutes, they were clearing tables and wiping them off with ease. They helped deliver special order pizzas, too.

Many friends and family members came in for lunch while the students were working.

Arlene Groem of Prinsburg hugged her grandson Andrew Borstad when he came to her table.

Groem said Andrew had been excited about the project and had told her about the job interviews the students went through a week ago. She had gotten a text from her daughter that morning, telling her Andrew wanted to remind her about lunch.

Andrew and other students said they were enjoying their temporary jobs.

"I had no idea what it would be like," said Eric Olsen, but it was something "new and fun."

Sloan Stahnke said she had expected the "crazy" atmosphere, and she was having fun. "I'm kinda sad we have to miss school for this," she said.

A week earlier, Keller met with the students at CCS. He talked to them about how to dress to make a good impression at a job interview.

The children had shown him in their cover letters that they had researched the company and its vision, he said.

Keller interviewed them in groups of four, asking the students if they were good at learning new things.

Selah Martinez said her grandma taught her to start the mower and mow the lawn, and it only took about a couple minutes.

Asked how they handle stressful situations, Gabrielle Bollig said, "I give myself a little pep talk, 'You got this.'"

Several others said they would take a deep breath and maybe count to 5 to control stress.

Keller offered some interviewing advice, telling them to keep positive eye contact and make their answers short and to the point.

When he asked why he should hire them to clear tables, Ellie DeLeeuw told him that she is usually the one who clears the table after dinner at her house.

To show she was a good worker, Zoe Johnson said she has a choice at home of doing her chores right after school or later. "I do them as fast as I can."

Teacher Kristyn Clark said the idea for the exercise came from a workshop attended by Principal Lisa Strom. The students are learning several things through it, she said, and she hopes the lessons will stick with them.

They're learning about persuasive writing and essay structure. They did online research on the Pizza Ranch parent company.

They brainstormed questions they wanted to ask Keller and discussed what they should say in their resumes and cover letters.

"We've been able to do some character education," she said, as she's talked about qualities employers want to see and about making a good impression. The class discussed what it meant to be hard-working and responsible, and they learned a new word — punctual.

As she watched the students working, she said, "The kids are doing a great job."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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