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Sunday, April 28, 2019

High school booster clubs

Is your high school booster club struggling with membership, participation, and fundraising? Here are some great ideas and strategies to try, and things to ponder.

Ah, the old high school booster club. Long a main staple for supplementing school budgets by underwriting student experiences that enhance learning and create lasting memories. Many also award college scholarships. This largely parent-driven type of organization, like many other types of community service clubs and civic organizations these days, is grappling with challenges centered around areas like membership, active participation, and fundraising.

While this post is primarily intended for parents and others that are typically involved in high school booster clubs, high school and college students looking to get into areas like event planning, fundraising, marketing, food and beverage, entertainment, and/or volunteer work at some point may also find the information and ideas presented here to be helpful, as there are some great suggestions and important trends being discussed.

As with all of my posts, I welcome any questions, feedback, insights, and experiences you may have in the comments section below. Do you have any fundraising and event ideas not discussed in my post that are working well for your own high school booster club? Please, feel free to share in the comments! Let's make this a real conversation and learn from each other. In the end, it's all about providing opportunities for our children, students, and communities.

I've been involved in a number of organizations over the years, including two chambers of commerce. I currently serve as president of the Muskego Lions Club, and I handle marketing and assist with booking bands for Muskego Fest.

What we're learning and seeing the last several years is that the traditional dinner/raffle/auction and golf outing formats, in general, are really struggling. There are too many of these around, and they're all competing for the same wallets and volunteers. When it comes to festivals, in particular, we're finding out that live music and beer, alone, doesn't seem to be cutting it anymore, either. For those of us living in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, it sounds funny to say that, I know. But people aren't buying beer like they used to. In the past, beer sales could be counted on to easily carry the financials for a festival or large-scale event, but not so much anymore. Finally, service clubs and organizations, all over, are struggling with membership and active participation, so fortunately and unfortunately, you're not alone here.

With all of that said, one possible solution is to focus on much smaller fundraisers that are easy and quick to set up, but do more of them throughout the typical year. Meat raffles are always popular. Team up with bars in the area that will let you do them. Ideally, it would be wonderful if these bars will donate the meat. But even if you need to buy it yourselves, the raffle can still be very lucrative. Sell the tickets at $2 each or 3 for $5. 50/50 raffles are still popular, as well. Doing them in conjunction with meat raffles can be fun and profitable. Again, $2 each or 3 for $5 is a good price point to stick with.

Does your high school booster club have the capability to take donations and payments by credit card, and, if so, year-round? There are quite a few great credit card processing options out there that aren't very costly or contract-based. So if you can accept payments and donations by CC all the time, you're making it that much easier for people to give.

Fishing jamborees are extremely popular. If planned and advertised properly, you can potentially bring in thousands of dollars between entry fees, event sponsorships, silent auction items, and raffles, including meat and 50/50 raffles.

A couple of places to chat with here in the greater Muskego area that do jamborees all the time are Danny Haskell's (on Little Muskego Lake), and AJ's (on Big Muskego Lake).

Murder mystery dinners and trivia nights are very popular options, as well. I see both advertised frequently. When it comes to trivia, specifically, I remember when the concept really started to take off in popularity around the mid-late 2000s. I know some old college classmates that started whole businesses based around trivia nights and events in the Milwaukee area and have done well with them. It's a trend that's managed to stick around and retain high levels of popularity, and today, we see a lot of trivia nights and events centered around specific themes, like hit book and movie franchises.

Reverse Bingo is always fun and lucrative. Best paired with a larger event. The concept is simple - rather than trying to fill up a Bingo card, players want to hope that their cards don't hit on a single number. Once a card has a called number, that card is out. The last person standing with a clean card wins the prize. The prize can take the form of a 50/50 arrangement, or, depending on your card sales, a flat dollar amount, like $500. If no one is left with a clean card, which can certainly happen, there is no prize - the house (your club!) keeps everything. A great price point to sell these cards at is usually around $5 each or 3 for $10.   

Do you ever approach other community service clubs, organizations, and foundations for monetary donations and financial/volunteer partnerships? This is a wonderful way to boost (pun intended!) your bottom line, build and strengthen alliances around town, and increase awareness and engagement for your cause.  

How often do you hold business meetings as a club? If it's once a month or once every couple of months or so, is it possible to move to twice per month, but limit the time of each meeting to say 45 minutes or so? We're finding that millennials and young families want to serve and do various charitable work, but they simply don't have the time to meet for longer periods.

Do you have any big annual sponsors? You'll have to promise some incentives for this. Devise a robust marketing package that provides regular exposure for business sponsors throughout the year via various avenues like social media, mailers, fliers, signage, event and game programs, press releases, and direct patronage (holding some meetings and larger events at those businesses). 

Do you have photos/videos from experiences you're helping to fund, like student trips, prominent speakers, scholarship awards, sporting events, post prom, etc.? Share them. Share your story. Proudly let the broader community (not just the immediate school community) know what you're up to.

Hopefully, you've found this post somewhat helpful and informative. Again, I welcome your questions, feedback, insights, and experiences in the comments section below. What's working for your own high school booster club? What's not? What changes have you made to improve your situation?

Monday, April 22, 2019

Using dated sources for research

A number of days back, I wrote a post on how to choose quality sources for research, in which I discussed ways to identify reliable .com sources. Typically, students are generally advised to avoid .com sites because of all the junk that exists out there on the Internet through them, but there certainly are many trustworthy .coms, as well.

Tying into the broader discussion on selecting sources for research papers and projects, today I want to talk about another general rule of thumb we typically tell students to stick to - the one about not using sources that are more than five years old. I'm here to tell you that you can, in fact, cite sources older than five years - older than 105 years - with a catch.

The reason why we typically advise students to avoid sources older than five years is because any information and data contained in them is considered out of date, or quickly heading that way, at that point. Makes sense, right? That general rule, though, assumes we're always talking about present-day, real-time information and data.

But...

If you want to cite historical studies, data, facts, philosophical arguments, biographical information, news stories, firsthand accounts, etc., etc., you can certainly go back in time as far as you'd like to, or need to, if the source is relevant to your work. Absolutely.

A couple years ago, I was writing a paper of my own for one of my doctoral classes. The main article I made use of to build my case cited a couple of articles from the 1890s! But they were highly relevant. I may share that paper here on this blog one of these days. It's about how to gain genuine expertise at something (anything). Simply having 10, 15, 20 years of experience at something does not necessarily equal expertise. It was an interesting paper.

Anyway, happy researching and writing!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Weekend dance party

A couple of fun videos of the Peanuts Gang to kick off the weekend. As you'll quickly discover though, these aren't the usual Peanuts tunes...

A special thanks to Mr. Robertson's sister, Amy, for finding these videos a while back.

Enjoy!




Thursday, April 11, 2019

Choosing quality sources for research

When it comes to identifying quality sources for research papers and projects, we often teach incoming freshmen to avoid .com Web sites and, instead, to stick only to .org, .edu, and .gov sites. The reason why we often teach students to avoid .coms is because there's a lot of junk out there among those types of sites. No doubt about it. Anyone can buy a .com and post whatever content they'd like to on it, but the other domain extensions just named, especially .edu and .gov, come with some big restrictions. You have to be an accredited, degree-awarding institution (.edu), or a government entity (.gov), respectively. 

But the truth is that .com sites can potentially be rich sources of factual, unbiased, well-rounded, and well-written information, commentary, and analysis, as well. If you can adequately defend your use of .com sources for your research papers and projects, you can certainly use them. Among the endless sea of .coms out there on the Internet are reputable Web sites like History.com, Biography.com, WebMD.com, ScientificAmerican.com, and countless newspapers and magazines, among others.

Here are some great tips and strategies to help you in deciding if a .com Web site is a trustworthy source that can be included in your research paper or project. Keep in mind that while this post is talking about identifying and selecting good .com sources, the following pointers are certainly useful for evaluating any kind of source.




Look for the author's credentials - If an author or multiple authors of the content (the article, blog post, video, study, etc.) you're looking at are listed, do you see a small section describing their expertise? It may come in the form of a paragraph or several solid sentences, and may describe the author's level of education, number of years working in his or her industry or field, and/or any other information offering you insight as to why the author (or group of authors) should be considered an authority on the subject. This section may even take the form of an entirely standalone, separate page found elsewhere on the Web site.

Google the author(s) of the content to see if any similar articles (or videos, blog posts, etc.) are coming up that they may have written or created on the same overall topic. Using your best judgment, then, does it seem like these content creators and writers know what they're talking about?

Individual author or authors not listed? This can certainly happen, and it is not necessarily a case for alarm. The author may be listed instead as "Staff" or something similar, or not listed at all. In this instance, browse around elsewhere on the Web site. Is there an "About us" or an "About our publication" kind of a page that may give you some clues on the site's credibility? How do the other articles and content on the site look like to you? Trustworthy?   

The use of statistics, the inclusion of opposing viewpoints, links to other Web sites and studies - Does your potential source list any stats or figures? Does it link to any other reliable-looking Web sites, articles, posts, videos, studies, etc. in order to build its argument or case? While your potential source may come from a specific viewpoint or take a specific position on a topic, does it at least acknowledge opposing viewpoints? Does it let you know where the other side(s) is generally coming from?

Opinion pieces, editorials - can you use them? Heck, yes! But again, look for and take into consideration the credentials of the author or authors. Put more simply, consider the source. That's the key caveat here. Everyone has an opinion on everything. But is the opinion you're looking at here an educated one? In other words, is the author building a sound, reasonable argument? Is there a strong case being made that's worth serious consideration? If a former chair of the Federal Reserve is offering his or her opinion on where s/he thinks the U.S. economy is heading in the next few years, and it's published on WSJ.com (the Web site of The Wall Street Journal newspaper), you can trust that it's going to be an authoritative claim. It's going to be rooted in the high-level education and uniquely high-level work experience of the author in the fields of economics and government service. If the piece is helping you build your own case in your research paper or project, then run with it.

Hopefully, you've found these pointers helpful as you navigate the endless sea of Web sites out there on the Internet in your search for quality sources for your papers and projects. Happy researching and writing!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

A moving film on empathy

Yesterday, our school watched this. It's very brief, coming in at just under four minutes, but it's powerful. It's entitled, "Under The Surface". I thought it was definitely worth sharing here. Not much room for any further commentary or analysis. As you'll see, the film speaks for itself.


Monday, April 8, 2019

Advice for high school and college students

Note: The following was originally published on DiscoverMuskego.com back in November 2017. I thought it was worth sharing here. Hope you enjoy and find it to be of some value. 

Advice for High School and College Undergrad Students

By Aaron S. Robertson

November 2, 2017

In addition to serving as publisher of DiscoverMuskego.com, the author serves as a board member of the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and as president of Muskego’s Library Board. Currently a doctoral student at Milwaukee’s Cardinal Stritch University, he is the business manager for Estate Services, a remodeling contractor in Muskego. All views expressed here are strictly his own.

A few days ago, I wrote arguing that the partnership between the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and the Muskego-Norway School District is one of Muskego’s best kept secrets, and that it goes a long way in enhancing Muskego’s workforce development efforts, and hence, its overall economic development. The partnership achieves this by providing students with opportunities to gain practical knowledge and insights into the world of work; in other words, it seeks to bridge theory (what is taught and learned in the classroom) and practice (how it’s applied in a work and business setting).

I’d like to follow up on that piece with some advice to high school and college undergraduate students meant to further prepare them for work and business.

1) If you’re still in high school, don’t rule out a technical college for your education, at least to start with. There are plenty of great, high-paying jobs available out there that don’t require a four-year degree. Get an associate’s degree in a proven skillset or trade first, and then you can always pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree and higher later on down the road. A bachelor’s degree in a business or management field, teaching, or an area that compliments and enhances the core of the associate’s degree, can all potentially pair very well.



2) It’s never too early to begin networking. Establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships in the community and in the world of work and business early on can provide you with a competitive edge when it comes time to enter the workforce, seek advancement, or start a business of your own. Not only will you have established connections that can serve as references or referral sources, but you will also be acquiring a wealth of practical knowledge and insights by learning from them.

3) Whether you’re in high school or college, get involved in clubs and activities. Participation in these co-curricular opportunities is a great way to supplement your in-class learning by developing or strengthening skills in areas like communication, negotiation, leadership, planning, budgeting, problem solving, and teamwork, among others. Another benefit to such participation, coming back to the second point, is that you have an opportunity here to begin developing meaningful relationships with fellow students as you learn and grow together around common interests, goals, and ideas. These relationships can translate into lifelong friendships and networking opportunities.

4) Set some SMART goals. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. Specific, meaningful goal setting is so crucial to achieving the results you desire in any facet of life. And if they’re not written down, they don’t exist. Just saying to yourself, “Someday…” will never work, because, as one legendary band has taught us, someday never comes.



5) Don’t dismiss the jobs you’re doing now at your age as just “kid” jobs. What I mean by this is that, every job you hold is an opportunity to build new or strengthen existing skills and talents that can only enhance your future prospects. Don’t think because you’re working a fast food job, or cashiering in a grocery store, or stocking shelves right now that the experience will never mean anything ever again in a few years once you have your degree in hand and your first “real job”. Take your work seriously. Learn. You’re building skills in areas like customer service, problem solving, teamwork, communication, and technology, among others. And don’t forget about the networking value.

6) Keep up with news and trends in business and technology. Your next opportunity is waiting. Keep up with the business section of your local newspaper, seek out articles and content online, and maybe even get a magazine subscription or two.

7) Financial literacy. Learn all you can, and start now – credit cards, life insurance, long-term care insurance, retirement savings options, socking money away in an emergency fund, investments, loans, etc., etc. START NOW.

Follow this advice, and you’ll soon find that you’re becoming as badass as the tune “Green Onions”, the Booker T. & the MGs smash hit performed here by their friends, The Box Tops.



Here are some resources to help you get started:

Khan Academy
www.khanacademy.org

Launched by Sal Khan, a Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) –educated former hedge fund analyst, the Khan Academy is a free online education platform, with instruction by Khan himself, all by video. The site features courses in math, science and engineering, computing, arts and humanities, economics and finance, test prep, and more. Within the economics and finance course offerings, Khan has a subcategory devoted to entrepreneurship, featuring exclusive interviews and conversations he conducts with top entrepreneurs and business leaders.

TED Talks
www.ted.com

Featuring brief talks via video by a plethora of business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, writers, philosophers, scientists, and subject matter experts of all kinds, TED bills itself as “Ideas worth spreading”.

From its Web site:

“TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.”

Credit Karma
www.creditkarma.com

A free resource allowing you to regularly monitor your credit via access to your credit reports, weekly updates to your credit scores, and alerts if something seems suspicious. Also features articles and tutorials on a wide array of personal finance subjects, and offers you customized recommendations on credit cards and loans based on your current scores. In the recent past, the site added a mechanism that allows you to directly dispute with the credit bureaus any negative listings on your credit reports with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Like a lot of young people, I had run into credit card trouble in college. I've managed to clean it all up since, and it's great to have a resource like Credit Karma at my disposal to help me stay on top of my credit. I have made use of the Direct Dispute tool recently to challenge three old negative listings on my credit reports, and have managed to have all of them removed, quickly and easily. I have also taken up a few of the customized recommendations on credit cards. I’ve had a Credit Karma account for a couple of years now, and I highly recommend it.

Partnerships between school districts and chambers of commerce

Note: The following was originally published on DiscoverMuskego.com back in October 2017. I thought it was worth sharing here. Hope you enjoy and find it to be of some value.

Partnership between Muskego’s chamber of commerce and school district one of the city’s best kept secrets

By Aaron S. Robertson

October 30, 2017

In addition to serving as publisher of DiscoverMuskego.com, the author serves as a board member of the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and as president of Muskego’s Library Board. Currently a doctoral student at Milwaukee’s Cardinal Stritch University, he is the business manager for Estate Services, a Muskego home repair and remodeling contractor. All views expressed here are strictly his own.

A little shy of two weeks ago, on October 19, I had the immense privilege of participating in a luncheon at Muskego High School. The purpose of the event was to bring students and area business and community leaders together to discuss and reflect on the many career and educational paths that are available out there.

During this mentoring lunch, a joint effort between the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism’s Education and Mentoring Committee and Muskego High School, we broke up into two groups by gender, each in a separate classroom. From there, we broke up further into smaller tables, with one or two mentors joining a group of students for conversation and a pizza lunch. I was joined at my table by Rob Schopf, owner of the Indian Motorcycle of Metro Milwaukee dealership on Racine Avenue. Rob and I shared our stories of education, training, and work over the years with several young men that appeared genuinely interested in what we had to say. Likewise, we were certainly genuinely interested in what they had to say, and it was a great give and take of questions, talking, listening, and connecting.

After lunch and these small group discussions, the larger room joined together for elevator pitches, with each student and mentor standing up briefly and introducing themselves to the room. Mentors shared what they do, or did, for work, and offered meaningful career advice to the students. Students shared what they hope to study or do for work someday. After this, we broke up again into smaller groups for further conversation. This time, however, we changed the groups up in an attempt to match students and mentors around similar interests and work experiences based on what they shared in their elevator pitches.


The experience was as much of a learning opportunity for us mentors as it was for the students. We all became teachers and students of one another. For me, it was particularly rewarding to hear the stories of the other mentors. We had a diverse collection of talent assembled and backgrounds represented. Some of the mentors are college graduates, while others didn’t pursue formal education beyond high school. Some are still working, while others are retired. Some worked or are working for others, while others have pursued business ownership. Areas of expertise represented included sales and marketing, customer service, banking, engineering, trades, tech, police work, elected public service, office management, and entrepreneurship.

The partnership between the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and the Muskego-Norway School District is one of Muskego’s best kept secrets. It’s critical that high school (and college) students are given these opportunities to bridge theory and practice and begin making connections to the world of work early on. This has become a particular area of interest for me over the last decade or so, since graduating college myself, and is one of the chief reasons why I recently started offering tutoring in Muskego. With work, technology, and education and training needs in a constant state of flux, communities that have these kinds of partnerships in place are going to be able to successfully navigate both the challenges and rewarding opportunities of workforce development, and hence, local economic development. While perusing the Waukesha Freeman on Thursday, October 26, I came across an article in the Greater Milwaukee Jobs section that grabbed my attention entitled, “Workforce Plans Put New Emphasis on Paid Internships, Apprenticeships,” written by Dan Zehr. One of the story’s interviewees was Andres Alcantar, chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission. Mr. Alcantar made the same case when he observed, “Occupations are being transformed, and it’s important we give students insight into what this means for them in terms of opportunities.”

In addition to this mentoring lunch, other events and activities that take place throughout the year in this powerful partnership include, among other items, mock job interviews and resume advice, interviewing skits, and career bus tours around town. And then of course, there’s the Chamber’s annual scholarship program.

If you’re interested in learning more about the work of the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism’s Education and Mentoring Committee, visit http://www.muskego.org/pages/EducationMentoring, or reach out to the Chamber office at 414-422-1155, where staff are always happy to connect with you and answer your questions.

Tutor in Muskego and Hales Corners

Aaron S. Robertson, publisher of the Mr. Robertson's Corner blog for high school students, offers personalized and effective tutoring and consulting services to high school and college undergraduate students in the Muskego - Hales Corners - Greenfield - Franklin - Greendale - New Berlin area.

A complimentary initial consultation is provided. Meetings can take place during the day (over summer, winter, and spring breaks), in the evenings, or on the weekends; at your home, the local public library, or a local coffee shop.

Aaron's qualifications include:
  • A substitute teacher and a full-time high school special education / instructional aide
  • Currently a Ph.D. student in Cardinal Stritch University's leadership program, with his dissertation in the realm of organizational culture
  • Master of Science in Management degree from Cardinal Stritch University, 2013
  • Bachelor of Arts degree in political science with minors in sociology and philosophy, a certificate in integrated leadership, and a non-credit certificate for a course in entrepreneurship from Cardinal Stritch University, 2007
  • Former board member of both the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, and the Hales Corners Chamber of Commerce
  • President of Muskego's Library Board
  • Other current and past leadership roles in the Muskego community, including with the Kiwanis, Lions, and Rotary clubs
  • Former facilitator of a mastermind networking group whose members worked together on common business challenges and business education
  • 20+ years combined experience in areas like marketing, sales support, customer service, strategic planning, professional writing and communications, distribution, training, operations management, general bookkeeping, and entrepreneurship
General subjects available, in no particular order:
  • ACT and SAT test prep
  • Research Skills
  • Study Skills
  • Writing and Essays
  • Career Readiness & Workforce Development (mock job interviews, resume help, soft skills, career assessments, field trips, networking opportunities, help identifying majors and education tracks)
  • Business and Management
  • Marketing
  • Online marketing and social media for business
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership
  • Personal Finance, Investing, and Economics
  • Organizational Culture
  • U.S. History
  • American Government
  • Political parties and movements in the U.S. (present and historical)
  • Political Theory
  • Economic Theory
  • Sociological Theory
  • Philosophy
  • Test Prep
  • Advice on scholarship application essays
For further information, and to inquire about rates, please do not hesitate to reach out to Aaron by e-mail at therobertsonholdingsco@yahoo.com, or by phone at 414-418-2278.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Finding college scholarships

Best practices for finding and filling out scholarship applications

For more valuable information, ideas, and resources concerning college scholarships, browse our category, Scholarships.

As your high school career winds down, you may need to start thinking about ways to finance your post-secondary education. While student loans are a viable option in many cases, it's also worth seeking out and applying for scholarships to help ease the financial burden of continuing your education. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to find suitable scholarships in an endless sea of options, nor is it easy to define a winning strategy for filling them out. Below are some ideas that can help you overcome the challenges of finding and filling out scholarship applications.

Don't wait until the last minute. First things first, when starting your search for suitable scholarships to help fund your post-secondary education, don't wait until the last minute. The earlier you start, the less stressful the process will be. Once you do start your search, don't stop until you've found several scholarships that you qualify for. While you will likely eliminate many scholarships straight away because you don't meet the required criteria, with continued searching, you should have little trouble finding a variety of scholarships that you do qualify for. Once you've found several suitable scholarships, decide which ones you feel have the most potential, so you can begin narrowing down your options.

Don't just focus on the higher paying scholarships. As you're narrowing down your options, you may be tempted to focus your efforts solely on higher paying scholarships. This is a common mistake among scholarship applicants. Though obtaining a larger scholarship would undoubtedly be helpful, don't ignore the scholarships offering smaller rewards. Most likely, they have less competition, which increases the odds that you'll be selected as the winning applicant. Applying for scholarships with a range of monetary values is often a good way to maximize your chances of successfully obtaining a scholarship.

Regional, local, and school scholarships. In the same way that many lower value scholarships have less competition, so do many regional and local scholarships. While there's nothing wrong with applying for scholarships offered at the national level, you often have a better chance of securing some much-needed funds from regional and local scholarships because they generally have fewer applicants. Also, if you already attend or know which school you will be attending in the coming years, then definitely investigate the scholarships offered by the school, as well, because scholarships offered at the school level often have even fewer applicants than the regional and local ones.

Unique scholarships. While on the hunt for suitable scholarships, it is recommended that you also take note of any unique scholarships you qualify for. Depending on your personal characteristics and interests, you may qualify for such scholarships as the ones reserved for persons of tall stature (http://www.tallclubfoundation.org/scholarship-program.html), or bowling enthusiasts (https://www.bowl.com/scholarships), to name just two. While it can be harder to find unique scholarships matching your personal characteristics and interests, if you can manage to find one, it will likely have a limited pool of applicants, increasing your chances of success.

Following all instructions. When it comes time to start filling out your scholarship applications, always complete the applications in full and follow all provided instructions. Also, be sure to properly address your envelopes and affix enough postage to get your scholarship applications to their review committees by their stated due dates. The last thing you need to do is spend time completing a scholarship application, only for it to be misplaced in the mail or rejected on a technicality.

The essay. When filling out scholarship applications requiring essay submissions, take the time to craft a well-written piece deserving of the scholarship. After all, in many cases, the content of your essay will be more important to the scholarship committee than your academic record. As most scholarship applications with an essay portion provide a very specific word count to adhere to, stick to the specified word count so your application isn't rejected for failing to follow the essay guidelines. You should also have someone proofread your essay - and the rest of your scholarship application while they are at it - to ensure any errors are spotted and corrected before sending in your finished product.

Securing letters of recommendation. While certain scholarships don't require applicants to submit a letter of recommendation, many of the higher paying ones do. If a scholarship you are applying for asks for a recommendation letter, see if a teacher, coach, mentor, or employer will write one for you, as letters written by parents or other relatives may be considered biased by those judging the applications. If you are unable to acquire a suitable letter of recommendation, then only apply for scholarships that don't require one.

It's no easy feat to find and apply for educational scholarships. Despite the challenges of doing so, however, it's certainly worth the effort if it can help finance your continued education. While student loans are a viable option to cover the high costs of post-secondary education, scholarships - if you can get them - are often the superior choice because they won't later need to be repaid.




Resume tips for landing job interviews

How your resume can make or break your chances of landing a job interview

Job hunting can potentially be very discouraging. Many times, you'll send out resume after resume, and never hear back from the many prospective employers you've reached out to. So, what can you do to rise above the competition and finally land some job interviews? Make sure you prepare an excellent resume. Your resume will likely be the first point of contact between you and prospective employers, so if it isn't doing you justice, then it probably won't land you an interview.

To increase your chances of being granted a job interview, keep the following three things in mind when creating your resume:

1. Aesthetics and Originality

An aesthetically pleasing, yet original looking resume will stand out from the rest. This is especially important when applying for highly sought-after positions that may attract hundreds or even thousands of applicants. By ensuring your resume is both aesthetically pleasing and unique enough to set it apart from the others, you can reduce the likelihood of your resume getting lost in the shuffle.

2. Readability

If your resume can't be easily read, then it's probably going to be cast aside. Don't hide your strengths and previous work experience in one large block of text, as this can make it hard to quickly scan the document, which is how many employers decide whether a resume is worth a second look. Also, ensure your font size is large enough to be easily read, or prospective employers might simply discard your resume, regardless of how well-written it happens to be.

3. Spelling and Grammar

A resume that passes the initial scan of aesthetics and readability also needs to impress prospective employers when they go in for a closer look. This is when having correct spelling and grammar is vitally important. Even the most qualified applicant can lose a chance at an interview if the resume is riddled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Be sure your resume is error-free before sending it to any prospective employers.

The quality of your resume can be the deciding factor between never hearing back from prospective employers and landing an interview for the job of your dreams. When you are crafting your resume, be sure to consider all areas which may help you to stay ahead of the competition, so you're first in line when employers start granting applicant interviews. While spelling and grammar are obviously important considerations when writing a resume, don't discount other important areas like aesthetics, originality, and readability. By taking these areas into account when writing your resume, you can increase your chances of landing a job interview.

For more in-depth tips, ideas, and strategies, see my previous post, "Creating a resume and applying for work."

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Attempted student newspaper shenanigans

Going through some of my archives and writing projects today, and I found this humorous yet also inspirational piece that I tried submitting to the student newspaper at the high school I work for sometime back in December. It wasn't published, and I thought I'd share it here for a few laughs. Enjoy! 

Mr. Robertson now officially works here

No longer must wear embarrassing photo of himself on his chest every day; considering growing goatee at request of freshman boys

By Staff

Mr. Robertson, who started working at the high school back in October in a guest teacher capacity, has now been officially employed here as of earlier this month, the student newspaper has learned. Details of his employment contract were not disclosed by the school district, but when the paper’s reporters recently swarmed the kindly, pony-tailed businessman-turned-educator in the cafeteria to press him for more details as he was ordering his usual black coffee, he seemed to give some insight into his employment terms. “Let’s just put it this way. I’m thankful I genuinely love education and working with students, because I’ll be working a long, long time,” he said with a smile.

The paper’s investigative team also asked him about the photo of himself that he had to wear on his shirt each day while working here as a visiting educator.

Mr. Robertson’s driver’s license photo that appeared on his visitor badge each day. It appears Mr. Robertson got a splash of coffee on the badge on this particular day in December.
“Well, the photo comes right from your driver’s license when you check in at the office each day,” Mr. Robertson started to explain. He went on to add, “At first, I didn’t mind. But after a while, it felt like I was being punished or something. So I had one lousy hair day, and it just happened to be on the day I had to go down to the DMV to get my license renewed. So what? Don’t we all let our hair go occasionally? And so, for a while there, it felt like I was constantly being reminded about that one day.”

Mr. Robertson noted that, for some time, he took a little flak from a group of freshman boys about his now-famous wild hair day. “But then they started to turn their attention to the goatee I had at the time, and now they’re really encouraging me to grow it back,” said the currently clean-shaven, eccentric Ph.D. student. “They already think I’m cool, but they’re telling me how much cooler I’d be if I grew it back, so I’m giving it some serious thought.”

Asked if he had any advice for students, Mr. Robertson said, “Eat your vegetables, study hard, get your sleep, listen to your teachers and to administrators, and believe in yourself,” before adding, “And remember, all challenges and obstacles are only temporary. All of us adults have been through everything you’re thinking and experiencing, so believe me when I say, we know. We were your age at one time, too. We made it through, and so will you.”

For more school and life advice, even some homework help, check out Mr. Robertson’s new blog, “Mr. Robertson’s Corner,” at mrrobertsonscorner.blogspot.com.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Robertson. We’re happy to have you.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Embracing lifelong learning

If you wish to be successful in life and career, it's important to fully embrace the concept of lifelong learning.

See, learning doesn't end with the school day, or with the school year. It's not something that fits in neatly somewhere only between the hours of 7am-3pm Monday-Friday and that's it. And it has very little, if anything at all, to do with formal education. It doesn't matter what kind of diploma, degree, or other credentials you have attained. Whether you have a high school diploma, GED, bachelor's degree, master's degree, or doctorate, none of that really matters. As many of you know, I'm currently pursuing a doctorate in the form of a Ph.D. While it's true that this is the highest level of academic degree that can be attained, it's certainly not the be-all-end-all of learning. It doesn't make me a genius. It doesn't give me everything I'll ever need to know. All it demonstrates is that I can conduct original scientific research. Big deal. Far more people out there know a heck of a lot more than I do and are far more successful than I am without that formal education. And I sincerely hope that you become one of them.

Lifelong learners, then, are always on the lookout for new opportunities to grow personally and professionally, for both their own benefit and the benefit of others. They know and understand that technology, the way we do business, the workplace, popular trends, entire industries and sectors, etc., are always changing, and by keeping a decent pace with these never-ending changes, lifelong learners can position themselves ahead of the curve - ahead of others.

Start your commitment to lifelong learning with these previous posts:



Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Technical college scholarships

A couple days ago, I had a phone conversation with a board member of a local chamber of commerce. She's actually my insurance and investment advisor, and I was calling her on business. I was a long-serving board member of this chamber, as well, until very recently, when I had to step away due to my work schedule.

Anyway, this chamber of commerce offers an annual scholarship - two actually, one for the four-year college/university path, and the other for the two-year technical college track. The scholarship is currently being advertised at the high school I work at.

She brought up a very good point that I want to share with you. We started chatting about the chamber's scholarship competition when I told her that I'm hearing it get a lot of great publicity at the high school in the school's daily announcements. I mentioned that I hope the technical college scholarship, in particular, gets a good number of applicants this year because of the so many great career opportunities available right now in the skilled trades. She agreed with me on that, but she added - finally getting to the point of this post here, I swear! - that there are many more opportunities available with a technical college education than just the trades.

See, there's so much talk right now about the trades - and rightly so - that we tend to forget about the many other wonderful, high-demand, good paying career paths that a technical college can set you on. They're unintentionally being overshadowed by all the trades talk going on.

We're talking culinary arts and hospitality management, dental hygienist, real estate and property management, graphic design, Web and digital media design, information technology (IT), criminal justice and law enforcement, nursing, paramedic and EMT, fire protection, truck driving, marketing and sales, human resources (HR), cosmetology, you name it. Some schools may offer aviation. Countless more programs to choose from.

So much to explore in the technical college realm. So many viable options. And best of all? A lot of these technical college scholarships typically have very few applicants. And that makes for fantastic odds for you.

Still interested in the four-year bachelor's degree? As I explain in a previous post, "Manufacturing and the trades in schools, and I'll close on this thought:

Want the best of both worlds? I typically advise students these days to take a serious look at a technical college or vocational school education. Learn a provable hard skill or trade first, something that you're really going to enjoy. Enter the workforce with those skills and gain some practical on-the-job experience for a while. And then consider going for the bachelor's and perhaps even beyond, if that's something you'd like to do. Maybe get a bachelor's in a business/management/leadership program. Now, you have two good things going for you - first, you have that concrete, verifiable skill set. And you'll also have that bigger-picture education that can help you set the stage for a promotion into management or even off on your own as a business owner yourself some day.
For more information and resources on scholarships, check out the previous post, "Scholarships and financial aid resources."

Hello from Lake Delavan

Howdy from the shores of Lake Delavan. I'm on spring break at Lake Lawn Resort, where I'm getting both some much needed rest and relaxation, but also getting some work done. I'm cranking out some great ideas for future posts here, so stay tuned! Hope you're all doing well, and connect soon!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The ability to write a valuable job skill

Over the weekend, Yahoo Finance published a story written by reporter Julia La Roche, based on a panel discussion held at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. The panel featured Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon and former Legendary Entertainment CEO Thomas Tull. Mr. Tull left Legendary Entertainment to start an investment firm called Tulco. Both are graduates of Hamilton College.

Anyway, Mr. Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, identified the ability to write as a valuable skill that appears to be disappearing in the workforce these days.

Here are two quotes from Mr. Solomon as reported in the article that I found inspiring and fully agree with:
How you communicate with other people, how you interact with other people, how you express yourself will have a huge impact on your success. And, when I try to point to things that have helped me, my ability to communicate, which was rooted in a lot of experience that I got here on the hill.

The other thing I'd point to that's so important is there is a real emphasis when people are interviewing around academics and I.Q. I think it's way overweighted...There should be equal emphasis on E.Q. and how you interact with people, how you relate to people, and how you connect with people.
Click here to read the full article, which has more great advice from Mr. Solomon, as well as from Mr. Tull.

I'm so excited that Mr. Solomon shared his thoughts on this, and I quickly sent the article to the English teacher I work with (I co-teach a junior-level English class). Writing, and communication overall, is a valuable skill to have, and I would agree that it appears to be a skill that is rather difficult to find out there in the workforce and job market these days.

It doesn't matter what you want to pursue for work and career. The ability to communicate effectively and relate to other people is critical for success in any career path.

You're going to need solid writing, verbal communication, and relationship-building skills for anything related to customer service, sales presentations, marketing, persuasion, preparing reports, placing orders with suppliers, closing deals, networking, leading meetings, management, entrepreneurship, event planning, fundraising and working with donors, you name it.

So, if you're not feeling very confident in your writing and overall communication abilities, practice with some fun writing prompts from time to time. Read more for enjoyment and look up the definitions of words you're not familiar with in order to expand your vocabulary and contextual understanding.

If you enjoy writing, or are starting to realize that you may enjoy it, you might be interested in checking out this previous post on career options with writing skills. There are many neat opportunities out there if you have these skills.

Monday, March 18, 2019

David White passes away

This morning, I learned that David White, songwriter and founding member of the 1950s-60s doo-wop group Danny & The Juniors, passed away yesterday, March 17, 2019. He was 79 years old.

I had the opportunity to interview David back in 2013. I really enjoyed our conversation and got a lot out of it. I'm thankful he took a little time out of his busy schedule to chat with me for a while. He was very talented, and he was definitely one of the good guys. Rest in peace, David White, and thank you for your many and lasting contributions to the world of music.

Here is my interview with David White of Danny and the Juniors. There's a lot of neat history and trivia in it about the early days of rock 'n' roll that I think you'll enjoy.

And here are a couple of videos of Danny & The Juniors performing. The first video is "At the Hop," which came out in 1957, and the second is "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay," which was released the following year, in 1958.

In the "At the Hop" video, David is the one all the way to the left. In "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay," he is the second one from the bottom seat.

Enjoy!




Sunday, March 17, 2019

Manufacturing and the trades in schools

A look at the return of manufacturing and the trades in schools and in conversations.

Recently, I published a post on here entitled, "I was a slacker in high school," in which I discussed the regrets I still have all these years later for not taking high school more seriously. That post generated quite a bit of buzz, fielding over 500 hits in less than a day and a couple of reader comments below the post. I'm really grateful for all the interest and positive feedback surrounding that post, and I truly hope it can serve as a teachable moment.

Today, I want to talk about another important factor that affected my time in high school in, looking back on it, a negative way, as well, and how younger generations of high school students and graduates are now benefiting from a renaissance in programming, resources, and real conversations. I'm talking about the resurgence in manufacturing and the trades in schools.

I graduated high school in 2001. While I was in high school in the late 1990s, manufacturing in the United States was undergoing a serious exodus. Perhaps the hardest hit areas were in the Midwest, where manufacturing was a way of life, providing many families with a stable, comfortable, middle-class lifestyle. Many of the men in my family, along with many of our family friends, were skilled machinists. And many of them lost their jobs in the late 90s, including my father, an uncle, and even my mother, who did assembly work. Many plants during this time closed up shop and moved down to Mexico, where labor and other resources were much cheaper.

At the time, the message to those of us in high school was, "Avoid manufacturing. It's dead in this country. There's no future in it. Go to college." The four-year university was all the talk. That was the path we were all encouraged - even outright steered toward - to pursue. Many students from my generation, including myself, were the first ones in our families to go to university. Pursuing a university education, we were told, would lead to a great, comfortable living, and one that's clean - away from the oily, dirty, dim-lit environment often associated with machining and factory work back then, however real or merely perceived.

Simultaneously, the other trades, along with technical colleges and vocational schools, were largely downplayed as post-high school options, as well. These jobs and paths just weren't really talked about much, it seemed, and when they were, they were often cast in the same light as the then-disappearing jobs in the manufacturing realm - grimy, labor-intensive, whatever the opposite of the pristine, well-lit, promising, and even futuristic jobs being churned out by the white-collar world. The university, we were told by our parents, teachers, guidance counselors, the media, and broader society, was the way of the future. Many schools were scaling back or outright eliminating shop and tech ed programs, or they were on their way to doing so in subsequent years.

There's just one problem with this widely-held blind faith in the university system - unless we want to go back to kerosene lamps, outhouses, primitive buildings and living spaces, making our own tools and utensils, and horse and carriage for transportation, we will always need electricians, plumbers, carpenters, painters, drywallers, welders, mechanics, machinists, assembly workers, automotive workers, you name it.

Flash forward to today. In more recent years, especially the present day, the tide has shifted back to fully embracing trades education. We as a society are back again to encouraging technical colleges and vocational schools as viable post-high school options. We're reviving old and establishing new partnerships to funnel students and graduates into skilled labor employment and apprenticeships. And we're simply having real conversations of substance. And, in a somewhat ironic twist, it's these types of jobs and career tracks that are the ones offering the comfortable, promising living these days. Furthermore, manufacturing facilities have come a long ways in cleanliness and lighting levels to match!

See, we've managed to ignore, downplay, or steer away from these lines of work for so long, while simultaneously over-flooding the market with bachelor's degree holders, that there are huge labor shortages - and hence big-time demand for young adults showing an interest and aptitude for them.

Now, I don't regret my university education and subsequent graduate-level studies. Through this education, I've discovered and enjoyed a lot of work meaningful and satisfying to me over the years, including various stints in entrepreneurship. I've also established and have benefited from quite a few professional and networking relationships, many of which have become close, personal friendships. But while I have no regrets on my university education, I also wish that these opportunities were discussed and presented to us in a more positive - literally, a more honest - light back then. Big opportunities that you now have if you're interested.

Want the best of both worlds? I typically advise students these days to take a serious look at a technical college or vocational school education. Learn a provable hard skill or trade first, something that you're really going to enjoy. Enter the workforce with those skills and gain some practical on-the-job experience for a while. And then consider going for the bachelor's and perhaps even beyond, if that's something you'd like to do. Maybe get a bachelor's in a business/management/leadership program. Now, you have two good things going for you - first, you have that concrete, verifiable skill set. And you'll also have that bigger-picture education that can help you set the stage for a promotion into management or even off on your own as a business owner yourself some day.