Facing college interviews can be a daunting experience for high school students, especially those for whom English is not a first language.

The Mock Interview Program was piloted in 2010 and added to the English Activities Programs (EAP) in 2012, the program is offered at about six local secondary schools and reaches more than 300 15- and 16-year old students each year. The program enables students to practice English with fluent speakers and experience a simulated interview for 10 to 20 minutes. It plays a part in preparing them for the government oral English exam and the rigorous admissions interviews of Hong Kong’s top universities. In addition to improving speaking skills, we hope students build self- esteem, learn to think on their feet and, as Shelly Matthias said, “become more self-aware to be able to answer questions not just about their academic abilities, but about their thoughts and dreams.” The core program always brings five to ten volunteers to a school for about two hours of mock interviews. However, I usually give extra support because the schools are so under- resourced. At one school where there was no career counselor, I lectured to over 150 senior secondary students before they met AWA mock interviewers. At another school, I held a five- week series of one-hour interactive workshops to give students more tips and practice. It is fulfilling work, and I often wish I had more time and people power to give them more.

We are often amazed at the high motivation of the students. Last month at The Jockey Club Eduyoung College, students attended our sessions during their spring break because they wanted to get a competitive edge in the university admissions process. The odds are against them. Only 18 percent of Hong Kong’s teenagers can study at a government-funded institution – the lowest admission rate outofHongKong,Macau,TaiwanandSingapore. Incontrast, member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (including the UK, the USA, Canada and Australia) boast, on average, places for 68 percent of their teenage population. Given the discouraging statistics here, it is refreshing to work with such hard-working and receptive students. Many volunteers echo Lucinda Whitely’s sentiments, “It was such a privilege to get a glimpse into their world. Being able to help them, even if it is only in a small way, feels very rewarding.” It is what keeps many of us coming back – school after school, year after year. Volunteering is easy. Working with a handful of students, you ask questions from a list that is provided beforehand, and use a simple assessment form to give feedback about personal presentation, language and interviewing skills. If you have ever been interviewed or interviewed others, you will have something valuable to add. Join one session at one school, or multiple sessions at different ones. Next academic year, we hope you will join us in helping teens gain valuable life skills and explore parts of Hong Kong you may not have seen!

Study Session for Students. Helping students prepare for their upcoming Final English Speaking exam was the purpose of a study session on May 7, 2014 for students from Nam Wah Catholic Secondary School. Four students, one of whom had been a Phone Pal for two years, participated. The students wanted to prepare for their upcoming final English speaking exam so AWA volunteers conducted sample tests, gave the students suggestions, pointers and advice on improving their English skills.

Taken from an article in June 2014 AWAre by program coordinator Bernice Lee