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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fairfield Public Library’s Jobs Series Opens to Rave Reviews

Fairfield Public Library’s Jobs Series Opens to Rave Reviews:
HR pros go one-on-one with jobseekers to hone resumes
(Posted to 1/22)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Some were re-entering the workforce. Others wanted to tweak their information to improve response. All needed help honing their bios.

Local jobseekers turned out in droves to get the help of human resources professionals that had volunteered their time to the Fairfield Public Library’s Job Series program, which offered the first of six sessions Saturday morning at the 1080 Old Post Road main branch. The opening session was devoted to One-on-One Resume Review and was facilitated by five professionals seated at separate stations in the library’s Memorial Room.

Library Reference Associate Judy Sparzo said the program, now in its third year, has been a great success. “We’ve served over 3,000 people to date through our weekly presentations. We’ve also recorded the presentations and put them on our website, as podcasts. The page has realized over 18,000 hits. We have people coming from Fairfield mostly, but also surrounding towns.”

Regarding program content, Sparzo added, “We try to offer a mix of skills they need like resume writing and interviewing, as well as stress management and credit counseling. A lot of things come into play when you’re looking for work and that are impacting your family. Our weekly presenters have been very generous with their time in helping people.”

Judith Evans, a Career Management Consultant for, one of the five resume reviewers, said she was glad to play a role. “It’s important for people as they go forward to have a really good resume. It helps open a door. I’m only too glad to help because I feel I’m contributing in a way to bettering the economy.”

Attendee Rosemary Field, from Fairfield, hoped to gain help re-entering the workforce. “I used to be an art educator but have been out of the workforce for 10 years now. I’ve been at home with my kids and have experienced life-altering situations. One of my children was diagnosed with special needs and my husband is transitioning his career. I really need to get back out there and use the skills I’ve learned volunteering and teaching to pursue a new career. My motto is ‘Passion, Purpose, Pay’, which to me means creativity in serving others. I’m hoping this program will help give me more focus.”

Attendee Mark Meuser, also from Fairfield, hoped to add some spark to his resume. “I’m currently unemployed and my resume isn’t working so far, so any professional advice to help me make it work harder would be appreciated. An old girlfriend and I put together my resume the best we could. It needs a professional touch.”

Fairfielder Carmen Herrera wanted to get a few pointers to help spice up her resume with a goal of landing a better job. “I’m here to see how I can improve my resume. I’m currently employed but looking for a better position and thought this would help. My sister is also creating her own resume and I thought I could get some pointers to help her.”

Pam Toner was another Fairfield resident reentering the workplace. “I’m relaunching my career after a 10-year sabbatical with my children. My resume’s three pages long and I want to find out how to condense it and make it work.”

The Job Series will continue through April 4 and include sessions devoted to interviewing, consulting, keeping current on business trends, leveraging LinkedIn and effective job searching.

The Job Series program is free to the public. For more information and a schedule of sessions, visit or call 203-256-3160. 

Historical Society Provides Life Lessons Through Fun MLK Day Activities

Historical Society Provides Life Lessons 
Through Fun MLK Day Activities
(Appeared in Westport News 1/19)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Westport, CT – While it was a vacation day from school, Hilary Gibson wanted to be sure there was still some learning going on, though in a fun and interactive way.

Gibson is the Director of Education at the Westport Historical Society at 25 Avery Place and was hosting a “Take A Stand” program on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday Jan. 17. The fee-based class, held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., was attended by a handful of students ages 5 to 9, who learned important lessons about equality and race through engaging activities.

“We wanted to create a meaningful program about why this day is significant and how King stood up for his ideals,” said Sue Gold, the Society’s Executive Director. “This helps children take their own stand while they have fun and learn at the same time.”

Since the Society began offering programs on MLK Day back in 2004, it has tried to teach a different lesson each time, said Gold. “One year, we invited illustrator Tracy Sugarman, who was very involved in the Civil Rights struggle and met Dr. King. He brought images and stories about that time period and gave kids a very real look at those events.”

Gold said the Society does a similar program on Election Day, centered around what it means to vote and make your voice heard.

Gibson designs and implements a wide range of educational programs for the Society as well as works with area nursery schools and the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport. She said, “My whole philosophy is that an educational theme can be woven through every activity that we do. Even with something as simple as decorating cookies, there’s a lesson to be learned.”

She referred to the snack time the children enjoyed and how they used different sprinkles and icing to make their cookies unique, and how they learned that no one cookie is more special than another.

To bring attention to bullying, Gibson read the story “Hooway For Wodney Wat”, discussing how it related to race struggles and the treatment of certain peoples. It provided an easy way for kids to understand the issues.

Demonstrating the concept of segregation, Gibson divided the room by children wearing clothing with stripes and those wearing dark or solid colors, giving only one group certain privileges. Then she asked them for their feedback.

“I felt it was unfair how we were separated and treated,” said Blair Gowrie, 9, who clearly understood the message.

To show that issues can be solved through words and communication, the children made picket signs, each with its own message that was important to the child, e.g. no bullying, be kind. The children also designed their own Dream Pillow, which contained a slip of paper listing a dream. The latter had direct correlation to King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and, in Gibson’s words, taught that “you should have dreams and goals but also that these should be flexible to change over time.”

Assisting Gibson with coordinating this activity day were four freshman volunteers from Staples High School – Amelia Brackett, 14, Charlotte Piekara, 14, Kristin Dionne, 15, and Olivia Kalb, 14. All are members of National Charity League (NCL), a mother-daughter community outreach program. NCL provides a list of service opportunities from which the teens can choose.

“We chose this program here at the Historical Society because of the tie-in with Martin Luther King Jr. Day,” said Brackett. “Holiday programs are usually more interesting because we get to see how children interpret issues.”

The children participating were clearly enjoying themselves but gaining valuable lessons at the same time, as Casey Corso, 7, summed up. “This is really fun and we’re learning a lot about Martin Luther King. It doesn’t matter if you have different colored skin or what you look like on the outside. It’s only important what’s on the inside.”

The Westport Historical Society will offer similar vacation programs in February and April, and during the summer. For more information, visit or call 203-222-1424.