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Chamber offers etiquette course for youth

For anyone who has ever endured the anxiety of a formal dinner,nervously picking up the big fork instead of the little one, theChamber of Commerce has good news for you.

You no longer should fear passing your etiquette faux pas toyour children.

The Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and Bank ofBrookhaven are sponsoring Dynamic Decorum and Protocol Skills forchildren ages 7-12 and Protocol and Leadership Training for Teens,ages 13-17, during a six-week course beginning on April 6 andcontinuing through May 11.

“We just hope it will foster a sense of leadership in our youthand develop leaders for tomorrow,” said Kay Burton, the chamber’sprogram director. “We also hope the youth will take what they learnand influence their peers.”

The deadline for application to the program, initially set forMarch 30, has been extended to April 5 due to delays caused by thearea school spring break schedule.

The cost of the course is $229 for all six weeks. Discounts areavailable for members of the Chamber of Commerce and families withmore then one child attending.

The program targets core leaders in each age group in thecommunity. Students will learn how to address state and localdignitaries during guest visits from First Lady Marsha Barbour andothers.

Additionally, “a fleet of limousines” will serve teenagersduring their course on prom etiquette.

“We provide the only complete and comprehensive etiquettetraining that is publicly endorsed by the First Lady MarshaBarbour,” said Jay Pearson, director of The Mississippi School ofProtocol and Etiquette.

Pearson, a certified graduate of the Protocol School ofWashington, describes himself as a Corporate Etiquette andInternational Protocol Consultant who believes the course will domore than simply teach kids whether or not to retrieve a droppedfork during a formal dinner. He offers comprehensive “leadershiptraining” that is broken up into a dining program and an etiquetteprogram.

“We teach everything a kid needs to know to become a dynamicleader,” Pearson said.

The dining program aims to alleviate pressures youngsters facewith formal dining.

“Students learn to feel comfortable and self-assured in socialsituations,” he said.

Pearson’s leadership program will feature leadership skillstraining. Course objectives typically include everything fromtelephone etiquette and listening skills to self-esteem andconfidence building.

Students will participate in role-play exercises and receive aworkbook for reference. Students should not expect to participatein the six-week program and be done with it.

Parents will be brought into the training to learn “how toreinforce their investment,” Pearson said.

Parent reinforcement is crucial. Schools no longer teachetiquette education, a fact that has left most parents dumbfoundedwhen dressing up the kids for a night of formal entertainment. Andunless parents have extensive traveling experience, Pearson said,chances are they do not know international rules of dining.

“Parents are not aware of the continental style of dining unlessthey have traveled abroad. We’ll teach them,” Pearson added.

Pearson will separate learning objectives according to age.

Children will learn the ABCs of table manners, the etiquette ofdining out, and how to master thank-you notes. Older youth willlearn interview etiquette for college preparation, dating etiquetteand prom etiquette.

Pearson expects participants to be pleasantly surprised at howmuch they enjoy the course.

“They come in a little pouty because their parents are makingthem go to ‘manners class.’ Before the six weeks are over, we’rehaving to push them out of the door,” he said.

Pearson believes young people genuinely desire to presentthemselves as leaders. “

“The course makes a lasting impact on their lives,” he said.

Burton was optimistic about the program.

“It’s incredible what he teaches about your handshake and voicetone,” Burton said.

She witnessed Pearson’s training first-hand after he donated hisservices to the contestants of the Junior Miss Competition.

“It was very interesting,” she said.

The winning contestant and two alternates in the contest wereawarded with free scholarships to the class.