Davis Academy seventh graders, from left, Abbi Goldberg, Joelle Zelony, Hannah York, Sophia Gurin and Isabelle McCullough, gained “real world” working experience at Macy’s.
Davis Academy seventh graders, from left, Abbi Goldberg, Joelle Zelony, Hannah York, Sophia Gurin and Isabella McCullough, gained “real world” working experience at Macy’s.

Five Davis Academy seventh graders offered a one-word description of their day on the job at Perimeter Mall Macy’s: “exhausting.”

But, these students said it was worth it for the experience of real-world work. During their day on the job, these students did everything from watching for shoplifters to working the cash register to dressing the mannequins.

“My favorite parts were greeting the customers and selling,” said Hannah York, one of five students in David Rifkin’s language arts class chosen for the project.

A real-world workday wasn’t the only experience the students gained. They had to earn the job. Abbi Goldberg, Joelle Zelony, Sophia Gurin, Isabella McCullough and Hannah York were chosen after each wrote a persuasive essay and were interviewed by a former Rich’s executive.

Rifkin, in his second year of teaching at Davis, said this was the 15th year he’d had students work a day at the department store. He previously conducted the program at a school in Alpharetta.

The idea, he said, was to teach his students skills they would need to get a job and keep it. “All these kids will have to do this in real-life situations,” he said.

He coordinated with a friend, Michael Pomerance, a longtime executive at Rich’s before it became Macy’s. Pomerance interviewed students who made the cut after writing an essay titled “Why Macy’s Should Hire Me.” The interviews were conducted in front of the class, and students were critiqued by their classmates. Pomerance then chose five who would go on to work at Macy’s for a day.

“Kids don’t really have any basis of the real world of interviewing and the skills, fears and nerves involved,” Pomerance said. “I interview them as reasonably close to the real world as I can, with keeping in mind that these are still young kids.”

He says he wants to see students communicate clearly and effectively. “They have incredible difficulty talking about themselves,” Pomerance said. “I want to see some passion.”

Joelle said she thinks she was chosen in part because she was confident in the interview. “I really worked hard and I made sure my essay was perfect before I turned it in,” she said.

Isabella said that as she was wondering “is this what it’s like every day?” she learned the importance of being prepared. “I feel like I worked hard and actually did deserve this,” she said of the interview and essay process.

Abbi prepared for the interview by having friends and family conduct mock interviews with her. “I knew I really didn’t have great interview skills, but I worked hard to get them better,” she said.

Sophia’s favorite part of the day was visiting the loading dock. “I got to look through all the new clothes, see where they put the security pieces on the clothing and try to do that myself,” she said.

Hannah says she now has a better appreciation for salespeople.

“When a Macy’s employee comes up to you, it can be kind of bothersome, but once I was in the shoes of the Macy’s employee, [I learned] they value customer service so much,” she said. “I used to think they came up to you just to make you buy things, but they actually do come up to you to see how you’re doing.”

Sophia said helping customers was particularly satisfying. “Every once in a while, I’d get a customer who would say, ‘Yes, you can help me,’ and I’d get to help them find a specific style or a different size of something,” she said. “That was really fun because I felt like I was really working at Macy’s.”