Dream Center Thrift Store manager Jennifer helps a customer check out.

Dream Center: Learning the Art of the Interview

Kids of all ages apply for thrift store jobs for grand reopening

Imagine this scene – long lines, personal shoppers running to and fro, tabletops overflowing with merchandise items, and a busy gift-wrapping station. One is reminded of a typical Black Friday or perhaps what a shopping mall looks like during the holidays.

But this is not your average shopping experience, or location for that matter. This is the grand reopening of St. Vincent de Paul’s Dream Center thrift store and all the employees you see working hard to serve their customers are 16 years old and younger.

While many children are excited to shop using their hard-earned SVdP cash (received for completing homework and improving their literacy skills), a lot went on behind-the-scenes to get to this grand reopening.


Volunteer Silvio Delgado talks to Dream Center students.

Silvio Delgado, volunteer and Assistant Principal at Sunland Elementary School, helped Cynthia Bach, Dream Center supervisor, revamp the thrift store management and organization, by implementing an official hiring process.

“We wanted to give kids a chance to experience a hiring process and learn the skills of applying for a job and interviewing,” he said.

Thirty kids, ages ranging from 6 to 17 years old, applied for the positions of executive assistant, checkbook executive, cashier and store manager. They were asked questions such as:

  • Why do you want to work in the thrift store?
  • What would you do to make the thrift store operate better?
  • If there was an argument between two kids over an item they both wanted to buy, how would you handle the situation?


Dream Center thrift store manager Jennifer poses for a photo.

Newly hired thrift store manager, Jennifer, 16, said she was a little nervous for her interview. She has been coming to SVdP for two years now and previously worked in the thrift store doing a little bit of everything. She used that experience to help her answer questions in the interview.

“One question that was challenging for me was, what would I do to make the store better? I thought about it for a while and realized that it used to take a long time for kids to check out, so I thought; why not have more than one cashier working at a time? Before, there was only one cashier and the kids would wait a long time, or the Dream Center would close and they wouldn’t be able to purchase their item until next time.”

Jennifer’s previous experience working as a cashier, checkbook balancer and personal shopper will no doubt make her a great asset and new manager for the store.

In addition to learning the interview and hiring process, thrift store employees also learn basic finance lessons, such as budgeting, checkbook balancing, and saving, from BBVA Compass bank volunteers.

According to Silvio, there will also be ongoing education and opportunities for all students.

“For the kids who are of age to work [outside of SVdP], we’re going to mentor them to help them get real jobs. And the kids who didn’t get hired, we will provide opportunities for them to get experience by doing employee shadow days and interview coaching lessons.”

Out of the 30 kids who applied, 12 were hired, with an eighth grader as the youngest store manager. They all sat down with Silvio to learn their individual job descriptions and responsibilities prior to the reopening.

“I think it’s so powerful for a student to learn the ropes at an early age and take ownership over something they enjoy doing. There are going to be opportunities like this out in the real world for them soon and we want them to stand out and go above and beyond,” Silvio said.

Are you interested in mentoring Dream Center kids? Join us in our work and sign up to volunteer today!


Dream Center thrift store grand reopening