DeKalb High School Students Gain Employability Edge

The partnership between the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and the DeKalb County Community Foundation has empowered over 45 students from DeKalb High School to achieve an Essential Skills Certificate of Employability. This marks the second successful year of the program in Scott Schumacher’s leadership classes at the school. Developed to align with the Community Foundation’s Workforce Development committee’s mission of enhancing essential skills (soft skills) among middle and high school students, the program serves as a testament to the collaborative efforts driving positive change in our community.


“Essential skills encompass a range of key abilities, from social and personal awareness to cultural and employment skills, crucial for effective communications and interpersonal relations,” said Teri Spartz, Community Engagement Director. To equip DeKalb County schools and organizations serving middle and high school youth, the Community Foundation developed the Essential Skills Video Series, and accompanying teacher resource guides offered as a social emotional learning resources at no cost to users.


“The video series is an important step, but we aimed to elevate its impact by fostering wider adoption within schools to benefit more students. Through collaboration with the DeKalb Chamber, we created the Essential Skills Certificate of Employability,” said Spartz.


Recognizing the importance of involving employers in youth workforce development, Matt Duffy, Executive Director of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the initiative’s aim to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world application. “Focusing time specifically on these essential skills and providing the opportunity for these students to practice the skills in hands-on activities will help these students be better prepared for the requirements of entering the workforce,” Duffy explained.


Students actively engage in practical exercises, refining their handshakes, crafting personal elevator pitches, and improving eye contact. The program seeks to build skills and instill confidence.


At the end of the sessions, students showcased their newly acquired skills during mini mock-interviews with local employers. Tia Anderson of Heartland Bank was one of the employers who presented the importance of essential skills in the workplace. “I was honored to be invited to participate in Essential Skills Presentation Day at DeKalb High School. These young women and men were engaging, passionate, articulate, and inspiring. The students were put in a spot to interact with adults, were professional, and shared visions of their future. I went into the day ready to teach them a little something and left feeling like they taught me a little something.”


For more details on the Essential Skills Video Series or Certificate of Employability Program, contact Teri Spartz at or Matt Duffy at

Submit A News Item

"*" indicates required fields

Accepted file types: jpg, png, webp, Max. file size: 1 MB.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.