Make-believe merged with real-world job interview situations Tuesday for 47 Mankato sixth-graders.

Object: to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to the first-hand dynamics of a community — running businesses, supervising employees and earning and managing money.

The Junior Achievement event at Loyola Catholic School used volunteer HickoryTech employees to interview students seeking jobs such as...

“Mayor,” Shane Price told interviewer Kelli Bohm before launching into his prepared litany of qualifications:

“I have really good leadership skills...I listen to everybody...I took charge on a group project and mixed everyone’s ideas together.”

Bohm threw him a curve: “Do you like to speak in public?”

“Um, I guess,” Price said.

Jobs students interviewed for ranged from sales manager to bank teller to web designer.

The most sought-after job this year: newspaper photographer.

The job no one wanted: IRS agent.

This is Loyola’s eighth year of participation in the program, which includes a four-week classroom prep period.

Even a pretend job interview can generate cases of nerves, and students prepare accordingly, Loyola instructor Judy Doyle said.

“We go over body language, greeting with a handshake, eye contact,” she said of the one-on-one skills.

As for the program’s larger focus, Doyle said students learn what free enterprise is.

Toward that end, the “hired” students will travel to Junior Achievement’s BizTown in Maplewood Feb. 5, where they will run a city for a day.

“The BizTown facility is a real-life learning lab, where students are able to experience first-hand how an economy works,” said Junior Achievement district manager Jessica Roschen.

“It’s an experience that will help shape their financial decisions and habits as the grow older.”

HickoryTech employees volunteer their time to the program each year, with the HickoryTech Foundation providing funding through its grant program.

HickoryTech employee Christie Satre has been a BizTown volunteer the past seven years.

“It’s a great program because it ties the school curriculum in a fun way with hands-on activities for the students,” she said. “I think we volunteers get as much out of it as the kids do.”

Junior Achievement, founded in 1919, teaches children about free enterprise through hands-on experiences. In the Mankato area there are 215 Junior Achievement programs reaching more than 5,000 students.

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