Clothing donation outfits students for internship interviews

CHAMPAIGN — With young men sporting ties and slacks, polos and khakis, and the young women wearing dress pants, button-down shirts and heels, students involved in the Champaign-Urbana One-to-One Mentoring program looked ready for the workforce Friday.

The students were interviewing for summer internships in clothing donated by Jimmy John's.

Jaslene Garcia, a sophomore at Champaign Central High School, said she had her choices down to two outfits, but finally chose a purple button-down with a cheetah print on its upturned cuffs.

"I think it was a really nice thing to do," Garcia said, adding that the recipients wrote thank-you notes to send to Jimmy John's.

Jimmy John Liautaud said the donations to the Champaign schools are another way he supports the community.

"Leslie (Liautaud's wife) and I give every penny we make in Champaign from our seven stores back to Champaign-Urbana and have for the last five years. Most of it is anonymous," Liautaud said. "We want to provide hope and inspiration to young people. I was inspired by some special people when I was young, and I'm trying to do the same. It's paying forward."

The outfits came complete with undershirts for both genders, and belts, socks and shoes for the men. The women said they were surprised to find their outfits even included necklaces with sparkling pendants.

Izaiah Pierson, a sophomore at Champaign Centennial, said he chose a white button-down shirt, tie and gray slacks because he liked the way the outfit looked, and how he saw himself in it, adding that he felt "spiffy."

Dominic Stampley, a sophomore at Centennial, said he chose his polo shirt and khakis based on the summer internship he was applying for.

Na 'Taijah Johnson, a sophomore at Centennial, said she doesn't often wear heels or dressy clothes at school.

"I felt older" after putting on her interview outfit, she said.

Lauren Smith, the Champaign school district's community outreach coordinator, said the students in the mentoring program were interviewing for paid summer internships in human resources and circulation at The News-Gazette and at Litania Sports.

Many interviewed for one internship, while several interviewed for two.

"During their six week (internship), their supervisor will also serve as a mentor for them, explaining the ins and outs of the work world," Smith said. As the six weeks draws to a close, Carle Physician Group will host a luncheon for all interns, their supervisors and their mentors.

"Everyone has a chance to compare notes about things they enjoyed and didn't enjoy and things that went well and sometimes things that didn't."

Sara Easter, Centennial's mentor coordinator, said it was fun to see the transformation after the students changed into the interview clothes Friday.

"They had a look of confidence to them," she said.

The interviewing clothes were just another way Jimmy John's has gotten involved with and is donating to the Champaign schools, said Sarah Mueth, a spokeswoman for Jimmy John's.

Members of the Jimmy John's guerrilla marketing team went to Central High School last fall, to give students advice on how to get their first jobs.

Their advice included how to dress, making good eye contact, filling out applications and other things they'd need to do to get hired, say, at Jimmy John's. The company also brought lunch for the whole school.

That program will continue at Centennial High School.

The dress-for-success piece followed as an extension, Mueth said.

The company will also provide interview clothes for more students at Centennial and at Urbana High School.

The students got to choose from several options, from formal to more casual. They chose what they wanted and reported to Mueth what sizes they needed.

She bought the clothes and their teachers distributed them, she said.

Jimmy John's has also paid for transportation, admission, and of course, Jimmy John's food for lunch, for various sixth-grade field trips this year, as well, for students at Champaign's three middle schools and at Holy Cross School. The company also gave Champaign students 100 tickets to the Illini vs. Indiana game this winter.

Six employees from Jimmy John's corporate headquarters also began mentoring this fall as a part of CU One-to-One Mentoring, Smith said. They meet with elementary or middle school students for one hour a week during the school day.

"That has been a really good way for us to get involved" in the schools, Mueth said.

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