Videos prepare DeKalb County students for success in life, workplace

The DeKalb County Community Foundation has created a new series of videos designed to enhance the essential skills of youth throughout DeKalb County.

Essential skills are the social, personal, employment and cultural skills needed for success in communication and relations. These soft skills complement hard skills, which are the technical skills required to perform a job. Local employers look for both of these skillsets in their employees.

“I love that the videos are short and simple,” Amy Horn, College & Career Readiness coordinator for the Kishwaukee Education Consortium, said in a news release. “Students will easily be able to relate to the content. I talk about life skills fairly often in class. These videos will provide great support and stress the importance to students.”

The Essential Skills Video Series is a free, fun and engaging resource for DeKalb County middle schools and high schools to use. The packaged series comes complete with five videos and includes resources for reflection, learning and feedback. Four of the videos highlight various essential skills (soft skills). The fifth video captures a behind-the-scenes approach and shares valuable lessons learned. The series meets required teaching standards.

KEC student Megan Thompson was a participant in the first class to use the series. “I liked all of the videos,” she said, “but the one that stuck with me the most focused on leadership and qualities that make a good leader. It highlighted the importance of taking charge but doing so responsibly and respectfully. Overall, the videos were good examples of how a leader can help resolve conflict. They showed me how I could take charge and step up to be a leader to others.”

A few essential skills featured in the videos include appropriate professional dress and behavior, leadership, conflict resolution, self-motivation, speaking clearly and appropriately, confidence, and etiquette for cellphone and social media usage.

Since 2011, the Community Foundation has committed to workforce development in the community. It began with an Essential Skills for Success Wheel that highlighted 16 identified skills lacking in the workplace.

“With the help of OC Creative, we were able to bring this concept to life by creating fun and engaging videos that show these skills in action,” Teri Spartz, Community Engagement Director, at the foundation, said in the release. “We are so grateful to our CommunityWorks Fund donors for partnering with us back in 2011 on this important work. This work is made possible because of their deep care and commitment toward this community.”

The Essential Skills Video Series is available to schools and educators in DeKalb County. Educators interested in obtaining the series for usage can contact Teri Spartz at 815-748-5383 or

Funding for essential skills work in DeKalb County is made possible by donor generosity to CommunityWorks Funds and other funds at the foundation. Learn more about workforce development efforts or partner with the foundation on current and future projects at

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From September 2019 – February 2020, students from DeKalb and Sycamore schools were cast as actors to model the essential skills to youth in DeKalb County. OC Creative, a local advertising agency, fulfilled the filming and production of the video series.