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K.O.C. partners with Miami Senior High

There could not have been a better pilot school for K.O.C. to set its feet down and grow than we had at Booker T. Washington Senior High. The support we received from Principal Aristride was exemplary, and we would not have become the organization we are today without the help of him and his staff. We came to love our students there and were amazed to watch them grow through our program. But perhaps more than anything else, Booker T. Washington Senior High showed us that there are undiscovered bright young minds in classrooms across the county, and we’re looking forward to discovering them!
With that in mind, we are excited to announce that as the Booker T. Washington program moves into its second year, we will be starting our first year at Miami Senior High this month! We’re taking our ever-evolving program to the high school, and are eager to work together with their staff and students to make it a fantastic year . Employing a similar classroom setting, we will be inviting interested freshmen to attend weekly afternoon sessions for presentations on a diverse selection of careers across the professional spectrum. Our Miami Senior High students will learn all about the careers presented to them, what they entail, and the steps they can take early on to achieve similar success.
As the oldest high school in Miami-Dade county, Miami Senior High has an incomparable history and a deep-rooted relationship with the community. Its student body of just under 3,500 students has produced local and nationwide leaders, ranging from professional athletes to CEOs to elected officials, at the city, state, and federal levels. We here at K.O.C. are extremely lucky to have the chance to work with such a diverse, driven, and engaged student body and staff, and we are looking forward to the opportunities Principal Valdés has given us there. Go Blue and Gold!

May K.O.C. updates

There were some big changes for K.O.C. in the final month of the school year! From jumpstarting our K.O.C. Ambassadors program to resume building and mock interview sessions, we capped off the year with some serious professional development for our students. With the summer upon us we’re already working on improving and developing K.O.C. for its second year at Booker T. Washington, but for now let’s look back at how the last month shaped the organization.

As we move into K.O.C.’s sophomore year, we’re getting ready to implement the K.O.C. Ambassadors program, the second phase in K.O.C.’s four-year plan. Our most dedicated students from the last year will be working alongside staff to organize presentations, mentor younger students, and continue to expand their and our professional networks. K.O.C. Ambassadors are will be taught to take ownership over not only their own development, but the development of their younger peers, and will have access to K.O.C. resources to support them. Under staff supervision, these students will be thrust in management roles, and will sharpen their leadership and professional collaboration skills in the best way possible—by using them every day. We are very excited to see how the students bloom in the Ambassadors program, and we can’t wait to see what the year ahead has in store for them! Our K.O.C. Ambassadors truly are professionals in progress!

As our freshman year curriculum came to a close, we held sessions for our students on resume building and mock interview sessions. With assistance from the University of Miami’s Public Health masters program, we held a class session in which all students, not only those enrolled in the K.O.C. program, were invited to go over the basics of building an effective and impressive resume, which was followed by one-on-one tutelage during which each student created a resume of their own. From page structure to detailed academic lists, the students each constructed resumes that would be impressive to any employer!

After the resumes were finished, the students continued to a lecture on interview etiquette and technique, followed by individualized mock interviews. Each student was interviewed by a K.O.C. staff member or a UM masters student, who asked them questions relevant to their professional aspirations that would be asked in a professional interview. Students were corrected on answers and behavior during the session, and given the chance to improve upon and change their responses, and quickly became comfortable in the interview setting, providing unique and explanatory responses to questions provided. Some of the students even told us about summer work they’ve been pursuing, and we can’t wait to see them all again in August to learn how their interviews and jobs went!

Finally, over the past year K.O.C. has been strengthening our connections and relationship with the neighborhoods around us, especially local businesses and restaurants. After having recent events at The Vagabond Hotel, Boxelder bottleshop, and Libertine Miami, as well as receiving sponsored raffle prizes from locations such as Wynwood Brewery and Kush restaurant, we only want to develop these relationships more, so expect to have more opportunities this summer to meet and create connections with young and established local professionals. We’d like to give such a huge thank you to everyone who donated and supported us this year, and we invite you to like our Facebook page to stay up-to-date with all our upcoming events and opportunities this summer!

May Educational Updates

A recent Brooking Institute paper looks at the societally harmful and individually tragic effects of “disconnection”—a situation in which young people are neither employed nor in school. The findings reaffirm the importance of connecting young people to reliable and inspiring support networks at an early age, the crux of our work here at KOC.

Nationally, an estimated 3 million young people aged 16-24 (7.6%) are deemed “disconnected”, cut off from the avenues of self-improvement that school and work provide. In Miami Dade County alone, over 50,000 of our young adults are neither in school nor working, representing a staggering waste of human potential. Disconnection from satisfying work and important schooling is a problem particularly acute among African Americans, a group with “…consistently lower employment rates and higher unemployment rates than other groups.”

In a stirring piece in The Atlantic, Debby Bielak and Jim Shelton point out the consequences of “disconnection” becoming concentrated among low-income Americans: group-based economic and intellectual stagnation.

They cite Pew Research reports that have documented that “Nearly 70 percent of children born to parents in the bottom 40 percent of incomes remain in the economy’s basement—regardless of whether they ‘work hard and play by the rules,’ as so many have been taught.” Our nation’s claim to be a land of opportunity, where anyone with an innovative mind and strong work ethic can become successful, appears to ring hollow for too many. Entrenched cycles of disconnection among low income Americans amounts to a failure of our society to effectively connect opportunities to those seeking them—without an understanding of the types of jobs and schooling opportunities that exist, how can young people begin to pursue them? Real social mobility requires that social and professional networks cut across class lines—otherwise, we are left with a type of segregation that is as accidental as it is destructive and unjust.

Luckily, we are now beginning to understand the problem well enough to effectively address it. The Atlantic piece goes on to cite the Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit philanthropic advisory firm’s recommendation to connect “major funders, as well as public resources, with ongoing interventions.” Organizations that are already using “on-the- ground innovations” to produce results, “but at too small a scale, can pave the way for social mobility for millions of Americans.” The go on to say that the highest yield investments will most likely go to programs that help low income Americans: “(1) build skills that will propel them to the middle class, (2) remove obstacles that hold them back, and (3) provide opportunities to transform high-poverty communities.” As the kind reader may have already noted, all three of those goals are at the core of KOC’s mission.

Further, Bridgespan’s calculations also indicate that “in addition to creating a high probability of increasing people’s lifetime earnings, these programs and tools potentially yield aggregate returns of at least $3, and as much as $15, for every $1 invested. A worthy return on investment.”

These are encouraging findings for our young organization. They affirm independently what we have suspected from our founding: that integrating social and professional spheres is the key to unlocking the too-often squandered potential of nation’s youth.

May Presentation Updates

With the school year coming to a close we did our best to give our students some really exciting and informational presentations before parting ways for the summer. According to our students, we didn’t disappoint! Since we set apart some time for mock interviews and resume building courses before the kids hit the books for finals, we kept it to two presentations this month, but they packed a serious punch! Former Marine Staff Sergeant Brandon Garland gave an impressive presentation on his time in the military, as well as his current position in finance for University of Miami. Not to be outdone, Mona Ragheb and Special Agent Shane Watts both explained their roles within the Department of Homeland Security and how each of their responsibilities is dependent upon the other. We finished strong in K.O.C.’s first year, and we’re looking forward to all the presentations we have lined up in the year to come!

No one knows more about the benefits of diligence than a man like Brandon Garland, and as such this was the focus of his presentation. Covering his time as a Marine Staff Sergeant, he explained to our class how determination and self-assurance motivated him through his military career. The class had the opportunity to learn about the strict requirements of becoming a Marine, both physical and mental, as well as the importance of your high school experience when becoming one. Garland explained how his grades, activities, and awards were weighed just as heavily as any disciplinary history he had when applying, and showed the students the importance of maintaining an upstanding moral character. After leaving the Marines, Garland received his MBA from the University of Wisconsin, and now works in the financial department of University of Miami. Tying together both of his worlds, his activity tested the students’ physical capabilities in a mock Marine training session, as well as their capacity for quick decision making in a mock stock trade scenario.

To close out the year we had professional duo Mona Ragheb and Special Agent Shane Watts from the Department of Homeland Security. As an attorney for the department, Mona represents the nation when prosecuting immigrants who have attempted to immigrate into the country after having committed serious crimes in their home country, as well as when prosecuting immigrants who have committed crimes here and are to be deported or extradited. Mona detailed to the class the type and level of criminals that require her intervention, and the processes she follows to research their past, build a case, and prosecute. She works closely with Shane Watts, who acts as a Special Agent for the department, who explained how his responsibilities lie in investigating suspects and making arrests. By doing so he captures the suspects that Mona prosecutes. The two expressed that how by working together, they form a team that keeps dangerous criminals out of the United States. To illustrate this, the class was broken up into multiple teams for their activity, representing Special Agents, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, with Watts acting as a former warlord attempting to enter the country. The class argued their respective sides of the case, after researching presented facts, and a ruling was reached to bar Watts’ entry.

Thank you to all of our presenters this month! You really did a great job of entertaining and educating our kids. If you’re interested in becoming a presenter during K.O.C.’s sophomore year, click here now!

April Educational Updates

Beyond the scope of K.O.C.’s presence in south Florida, research on educational trends worldwide continue to shape and alter the manner in which we teach our children today. Since our last newsletter came out, two important studies have been released that underscore the importance of our work—one study highlighting the importance of courses that focus on career readiness, the other pointing to the crucial role of “soft skills” in academic and professional success.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute for Advancing Educational Excellence has always been committed to improving the lives of children in America by focusing on what happens in the classroom and researching how it can be changed. One of their most recent pieces, by University of Connecticut’s Shaun Dougherty, shows that Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses have long-standing effects on a child’s lifetime professional outcomes when taught in high school. CTE courses focus on practical uses of typical classes like math, english, and science, and attempt to show students how the things learned in these classes can be applied to real-life scenarios. Too often compared to vocational education, Dougherty showed that CTE courses do not have a negative effect on how many students attend 4-year universities, but rather students who enter CTE courses are just as likely to attend these colleges. Additionally, he showed that students who took CTE courses in high school were more likely to graduate high school, enter a 2-year university, find a job, and be better paid for their work when compared to those offered no CTE curriculum. It would be difficult to find a more ringing endorsement of our work here at K.O.C.
While the Fordham Institute’s report is admirable for its rigor and specificity in demonstrating the importance of our mission, The Brookings Institute’s paper, “Hard Thinking on Soft Skills”, points to the importance of future study in how to develop the “soft skills” necessary for academic and professional success. While it is well known and empirically proven that character traits and interpersonal skills such as resilience, grit, ability to collaborate, self-awareness, and empathy are incredibly important for success of all kinds, few schools or programs have managed to create a process for developing these skills in a systematic, measurable way. Cultivating such skills in our students is a fundamental part of the K.O.C. mission, reflected by the exercises in self-reflection and empathy infused throughout our curriculum. As we focus on crafting assessments and refining lessons, we will do so with this research void in mind—we hope that our efforts will advance this underdeveloped but crucial field.

You can read each of these articles by following the links below



April K.O.C. Updates

Knowledge of Careers, Inc. Elysee Event by Slidely Slideshow

We had an exciting month of development here at K.O.C.! While our classes continued with amazing and education presentations to the students, we were engaging and entertaining the community around us, holding multiple events to bring in other nonprofit leaders and neighborhood activists, as well as developing corporate and governmental partnerships. Our main event was our silent auction fundraiser graciously held at the Elysee sales gallery. The turnout was fantastic and we were able to raise over $1,000 from donations, all of which will go to developing and improving the experience for our students. Among our multiple auction items ranging from private brewery tours and luxury hotel stays, we had two local artists showcasing their work for the benefit of K.O.C. as well. A huge thank you to everyone who attended, we can’t wait to see you at our next event!

Speaking of which, we will be having a Nonprofit Networking event in early May! We will be hosting and featuring numerous young and experienced professionals in the nonprofit field of south Florida at a venue in Wynwood, where ideas and strategies on how to better our community will merge and develop. We at K.O.C. will be discussing our plans for the future of the organization as we head into our third semester at Booker T. Washington Senior High School, and how the students from the first academic year will be developing within the program as they graduate into sophomores. We would love to see you there! If you’re involved in the nonprofit field, or are interested in it, please attend! Email [email protected] for more information as well as to RSVP.

Lastly, within the classroom, we will be holding a mock interview educational course and practice session for our students as opposed to the typical presentation. Some of our students will become K.O.C. Ambassadors as they move into their second year of high school. This title comes with increased opportunities to connect with our presenters, and as such will impact their long term professional development throughout high school. This means more responsibility on their shoulders as well, which we will be assisting them with by offering them proactive preparation courses, such as our mock interview session. We are looking forward to how it goes and what the students think of it, expect to hear more about it in next month’s newsletter!

April Presentation Updates

After a relaxing spring break, our students returned to the classroom for three amazing presentations this month. Elise Caldwell opened up the month with a discussion on what she does as an Athletic Trainer at a local high school. Elise spoke on how her passion for science and athletics shaped her professional aspirations, leading to the education she received and her current position. Elise spent over 1,200 hours working in various physical therapy clinics, high school medical departments, and her college football team’s athletic training department as well as for Washington D.C.’s professional soccer team before returning to South Florida as an Athletic trainer. After explaining her responsibilities for treating athletes on the field, Elise taught the class how to splint a broken or dislocated wrist as well as proper wound care during her activity.

Lani Ferro works as the Director of Governmental Affairs at our local Niklaus Children’s Hospital. Lani works as a representative of the hospital and, to a larger sense, the pediatric medical community of South Florida. As such she uses her influence to lobby local, state, and federal elected officials to draft and propose legislation that will benefit our children and the medical professionals who care for them. Lani not only helps officials draft legislation, but also acts to educate them on local issues and concerns, as well as strategize on how to best implement and write new legislation for the most effective results. During the activity, the students split into senators and two groups of lobbyists, with the lobbyists doing their best to represent their respective groups’ interests to the senators when it came to a bill that would allow for oil drilling on a nature preserve.

Constance Bates brought her storied personal history into the classroom when she shared how she developed into the professor she is today. Professor Bates highlighted how no there was little expectation for a girl to become a professor when she was a child, and how media at the time motivated her to overcome the obstacles that had been put in her path. Today she teaches at Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University, where she additionally works in research departments, having multiple published research articles under her name. After explaining to the students what would be expected of them as college attendees, she brought her research experience to the classroom, having the students break into groups and researching articles in the Wall Street Journal, identifying and applying published trends to modern business.

Recapping Last Night’s Event

A HUGE thank you to everyone who came out to network last night!!

We had our first official networking event last night at Vagabond Hotel Miami. Young professionals from all over Miami-Dade County came to meet each other and talk about their respective careers and professional goals. From an Editor-in-Chief of a local newspaper to a Luxury Real Estate Realtor to even a Marketing Representative for a diagnostic laboratory, our attendees shared their experiences and aspirations with each other, and made connections to better themselves personally and professionally for years to come.

All the proceeds raised last night went towards supporting our K.O.C. Ambassadors as they begin their Professional Development Curriculum this Fall! Read more about the K.O.C. Ambassadors program here!

And a big congratulations to our raffle winner from last night – Adam Gurewicz – Enjoy your gift certificate to Kush Wynwood!!

Thanks again to Vagabond Hotel Miami for co-hosting the event with us!

Keep an eye out for our next young professionals event in May 2016!

Learning More Means Earning More

An article posted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Education Still Pays” certainly captures our attention and answers a very crucial question: “As the cost of higher education continues to climb, prospective students and their families might wonder: “Does it still pay to get an education?” According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): Yes, it does.

According to the article, past BLS data have provided evidence that the higher education attainment a person has, the higher their income is. The most recent data shows the same! Seen in the chart, each rise in educational attainment ( i.e. high school diploma → bachelor’s degree) is followed by an increase in weekly earnings.

Equally, the unemployment rate drops with each education attainment. For example, those with an education level less than a high school diploma face have the highest unemployment rate of 11%. In contrast, those with a doctoral degree face the lowest rate of 2.2%. 


In Miami-Dade County and Statewide, High School Graduation Rates are Climbing

The Miami Herald recently published an article declaring “more students are achieving success by earning a diploma, which will enable them to pursue higher education and meaningful careers.”

Education in not just Miami-Dade County, but all over Florida, continues to improve! High school graduation rates have risen state-wide, with an increase in Miami-Dade County alone of 78.1%. With a state average of 77.8%, Miami-Dade is ahead of the curve and ready to keep up the good work. To quote Superintendent Alberto Carvalho on this same issue, “we are elated”!

Take Our Kids to Work Day

Taking up a timely topic, Richard V. Reeves of the Brookings Institute asks us to rethink the goals behind Take Your Kids to Work Day. What if it was renamed Take Our Kids to Work Day? On this day, professionals would take kids who are not regularly exposed to interesting and compelling careers into the office with them. Rather than focusing exclusively on our own children, Take Our Kids to Work Day would provide an opportunity to introduce kids to professions that would otherwise remain invisible to them, and therefore beyond their young ambitions. The author identifies socioeconomic immobility as the grievous problem - for the nation, for communities, for schools, and for our kids - that it is, and notes how we might take small steps towards bridging the divides that pervade our nation and undercut its fundamental promise to provide opportunity for all. We work every day to give our students the opportunities and skills they need to explore the new professions that will ignite their curiosity and passions, and are grateful that Mr. Reeves shares our enthusiasm for poking holes in the walls that separate society, keeping us from learning from one another. Link to article: --
We are very excited to introduce an ongoing series that will display the research of elite think tanks, social scientists, and journalists who are engaged in the same important work as KOC. We consider these researchers to be our partners. Their data gives us guidance, and our programs bring their data to life.
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Miami Senior High School Year 1 Updates - March 2017

The past few weeks have been filled with some great presentations for our first freshman class at Miami Senior High School. Our students have been learning about law, education, digitl marketing, and even geology. As the weeks pass new topics and ideas are being introduced, and our students are learning more about new professional possibilities.   Our students started off with a presentation by lawyer Marissa Leichter. With a focus on family law and child protection, she discussed the law’s involvement with the foster care system and nonprofit systems that provide child care. Marissa also detailed the complex juvenile detention system. For her activity, the students developed their own ideas for nonprofit companies and drafted a mission statement.   Digital marketer Bryan Lozano visited our class to speak on the value of online marketing and social media management. As the digital marketer for a large, south Florida law firm, Bryan manages the online presence of the firm and maintains a positive corporate image. Bryan described to our class the importance of establishing a difference between the online persona of a company or corporation and one of a person. As such, as part of his activity, each of our students started their own blog which they have been updating regularly.   A week later we were visited by Kyle Mullan, teacher and dean at Cushman High School. Kyle recounted his storied path to teaching and showed our class the many steps it takes to reach a professional goal. As a dean and teacher, Kyle crosses the line between educator and administrator, and helped explain to our class the multifaceted ways he must face an issue. Additionally, we were treated to a detailed description of Kyle’s many travels and volunteer work, which prompted a concluding informal discussion about world travel, geopolitics, and the need for selflessness. Lastly, geologist and professor Ta-Shana Taylor came to our class with a bucket of rocks! However we quickly learned that these were not just rocks, but also a mix of ancient fossils and minerals. Ta-Shana explained in-depth the inner workings of archaeology and the scientific fields, gradually revealing throughout the lecture signs and techniques to classify all of the samples she had brought with her. By telling us stories of her visits to the Museum of Natural History as a teenager, her dig sites in college, and her current work at UM, we seemed to learn more and more about classification and study as her timeline progressed. As we reached our current day in her story, we compared how we had sorted the samples to how the student did initially and saw firsthand how much we had learned in such a short period.
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Booker T. Washington Year 1 Updates - March 2017

As the school continues our freshman class at Booker T. Washington High School continues to have engaging presentations from a variety of professionals. Our last series of presentations have covered disciplines from all walks of life, professions, and academics, and have given our students an experienced outlook into the working world.   We started off the month with aesthetician Elizabeth Canler who spoke on her training and experiences in the beauty industry. Elizabeth drew from both scientific and aesthetic viewpoints in her presentation, speaking on the methodology behind products and techniques used in the modern beauty and cosmetological industries. Elizabeth brought in a number of ingredients used in facial masks which can be found at home and had the students design and create their own masks.   Dr. Angie Laird is a professor and neuroscientist from Florida International University who discussed with our students the benefits and uses of MRI technology in the medical field and how she uses it to study brain function. Dr. Laird focuses on the differences between active and inactive regions in the brain, and discussed with our class the differences between the two and how she differentiates between them based on MRI feedback. For an activity she had our students perform various critical thinking problems and exercises to stimulate brain activity and explained how she would measure which portions of the brain was being activated based on the type of question.   Entrepreneur Tony Thomas was next to speak with the class. He discussed the benefits of branding, personal marketing, and wealth management, both personal and professional. Mr. Thomas has a number of companies and holdings including athletic training and management, and discussed strategy behind balancing budgets and efforts between them, while maintaining separate and effective brands. As class drew to a close Tony had the students create personal fictional brands for causes or issues important to them.   To round out the month we had Dr. John Davies come speak with our class. An experienced leader in the south Florida academic field, he has been Head of School for the local Miami Country Day School for nearly 20 years. Documenting his path towards education and administration, Dr. Davies discussed how high school-level academia has evolved over past decades, how teaching styles can be altered to best suit different students, and the many opportunities and career paths involved in following an education in teaching.
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March 2017 Ambassador Updates

Over the past month our Ambassadors have had some of the most productive and educational weeks yet! Between large strides being made in their Community Impact Projects and developing their professional skills, they have been working tirelessly to improve themselves and the neighborhoods around them. Within the last month our Ambassadors presented their projects at our first annual Knowledge of Careers Pitch Presentation, where they were judged independently and the winner received seed funding for their project!   The Ambassador’s Community Impact Projects have been developing rapidly over the past few weeks. With each unique project taking realized form, our Ambassadors have been creating business models, competitor analyses, and financial projections, as well as ensuring their positive impact on the Overtown community and surrounding areas. Their work on their projects this semester culminated in our First Annual Knowledge of Careers Pitch Night, where the Ambassadors pitched their projects to an independent panel of judges: Melitsa Waage, Oro Padron, Hannah Anokye, Naureen Rizvi, and Sally Guzik. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to them for evaluating the programs and giving their feedback! At the end of the night our Ambassadors Donna and D'eria from their project Diamonds In The Rough edged out the other competitors; In Between, the program run by Kimneisha and Jonathan, and Beat The Odds, Chris and Marquise’s Community Impact Project.   Donna and D’eria won a well-deserved prize of an initial $250 funding towards their project, which will be implemented in May along with the other Ambassadors’ projects. The projects will be continued throughout the rest of the year, when they will undergo an unbiased, professional evaluation to see which projects have room for future growth and development. In the meantime the Ambassadors will continue the Knowledge of Careers curriculum into their Junior years, developing their programs further, and focusing on SAT and ACT preparation and internships.
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    • Jesica Doe
      “[After starting Knowledge of Careers] I know that math is a lot more important than I thought it was, I’m trying harder in it now.”
      K.O.C. Student
    • Jesica Doe
      “[K.O.C. showed me that] you need to work hard to achieve your goals.”
      K.O.C. Student
    • Jesica Doe
      "[After starting Knowledge of Careers, I am] more interested in school in general, trying harder across the board.”
      K.O.C. Student
    • Jesica Doe
      “The program helped me [learn about] more careers. At first I only wanted to do one thing, now I want to try something else.”
      K.O.C. Student
    • Jesica Doe
      “You have to work hard to get a job, I didn’t think it was hard to do before [the program]. If you need to look longer than you thought you would to get a job, that’s okay.”
      K.O.C. Student
    • Jesica Doe
      “[Knowledge of Careers] helped me [learn about] more careers and jobs that need more challenging steps. This program makes you want to do better in your classes for your future.”
      K.O.C. Student
    • Jesica Doe
      “[K.O.C.] gave me a good inside view on every different job, it [shows you] different things that are good jobs and it makes you want to expand your horizons."
      K.O.C. Student
    • Jesica Doe
      “[Knowledge of Careers makes you] open your mind to different stuff, like if you didn’t know what you wanted to be it gave you different [careers].”
      K.O.C. Student
    • Jesica Doe
      “[Before K.O.C. I thought getting a job was easy.] You get your degree and go see if they have any spots open, show your resume and you get the job. The perception has changed, you have to work hard.”
      K.O.C. Student